Can We Live Without Plastics?

Ever since invented in 1907, plastic is everywhere in our lives. Look around yourself: Clothes, kitchen utensils, laptops, electrical appliances, stationery, sport equipment, medical equipment, vehicles, planes, takeaway boxes, gift wrappings, ketchup bottles, and countless others. It seems almost impossible to live without plastic. According to a research article of Science Advances, the world had produced 7.8 billion tonnes of plastic by 2015. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, which means, surprisingly, all the plastic ever produced would still exist on earth today.

Plastic must have changed our lives dramatically. Thanks to clean plastic packages, we can preserve food well. Thanks to the low production cost, we can wrap things without paying extra money. Thanks to the light weight, spectacles are now so much lighter and give less eye strain. However, what if your body is unknowingly taking in plastics by eating seafood or other diet sources? What if many wild animals are dying from plastic entanglement? It is our responsibility to take actions in order to reduce such environmental issues. In this infographic, I have summarized why it is so difficult for us to stop using plastic even though we watch and hear news about plastic pollution quite often.

Since When Plastic Has Become a “Thing”?

I am in my mid-30s, but I don’t remember if I heard anything about plastic pollution until recent years. At least in my circle, there was no one who would carry their own reusable shopping bags for groceries or who would ask for paper bags instead or plastic bags. Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags as early as in 2002, but it was for a different reason. Bangladesh banned thin plastic bags because they clogged drainage systems during flooding. As of 2021, 155 countries will have introduced some kinds of restrictions, ban or charge, on the use of plastic bags.

In Australia, South Australia was the first state to ban plastic shopping bags in 2009, followed by Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and Victoria. New South Wales, where I live, is supposed to join in 2021.

So, since when the world has become keen on reducing plastic usage? One of the most influential events must be China’s waste import ban, instated in 2017. The ban included plastics, paper products, and textiles etc. Many countries, including Australia, had to shift their waste or try to reduce the amount of the waste.

Another event would be the 44th G7 Summit held in 2018, in Canada. The G7 countries, except for Japan and the US, have agreed to the Ocean Plastic Chapter, led by Canada. The Chapter outlined the plan to rethink the world’s relationship with plastics and shift economies towards zero plastic waste. The Chapter has been signed by 26 countries, 9 global partners, such as IKEA, and more than 60 Canadian and regional partners, as of August 2020.

COVID-19 Protective Measures and Plastic—Will Plastic Surge?

The more the cases of COVID-19, the more protective measures we take. Protective measures include, needless to say, washing hands and gargling. You might see more people wearing face masks, plastic gloves, or face shields and using hand sanitizer. These products include plastic. Yes, plastic is waterproof unlike paper, and plastic is lightweight unlike glass and aluminium. Paper-made protective clothing would tear in rain. Glass-made or aluminium-made protective clothing would be too heavy for most of us to wear and move around.

Not only plastic clothing, but also the use of single-use plastic food containers, cutleries, and straws might have been increased during the pandemic. What justifies this is hygiene? Consumers could avoid getting infected by using disposable plates and cutleries.

So, will the plastic use surge because of the pandemic? I feel trapped. Will there be any eco-friendly, sustainable, affordable, and hygienic protective measures available soon? The hope is that, optimistically speaking, human beings have always found solutions no matter how difficult. Share your thoughts and ideas with me.

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