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Plastic Pollution

biodegradable plastic bags

What are some of the environmental hazards from the use of non-degradable plastics?

  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris found most often in coastal cleanups, according to the Center for Marine Conservation
  • Plastic bags wrap around living corals quickly "suffocating" and killing them according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • "Plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to one million times background levels. As a result, floating plastic is like a poison pill..." -- Algalita Marine Research Foundation
  • Plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the central North Pacific by a factor of 6-1.

Do oxo-biodegradable plastic bags cost more than non-degradable? More than starch-based biodegradable bags? More than paper bags?

  • Oxo-biodegradable may cost slightly more than conventional non-degradable bags depending on where they are manufactured, but they cost about 4 times less than starch-based bags, and about half of paper bags. See the statistics from the case study (Costs of Paper and Plastic Bags) in Features and Benefits under Cost.

Why is it more valuable to reuse than recycle?

Because recycling needs:
  • Transportation to a recycling centre (burning fuel)
  • Energy, water and chemicals to reprocess it
  • The quality of the recycled plastic at times may be of lower quality due to contamination with different plastics

One way to understand dimensions

  • One tonne of plastic is equivalent to 20,000 two-litre bottles or 120,000 carrier bags.

Why would a turtle choke on a plastic bag?

  • One of turtlesí favourite meals is jellyfish. Turtles may mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish.

Name 3 advantages of plastic recycling

Here are four:
  • Conservation of non-renewable fossil fuels - Plastic production uses 8% of the world's oil production (4% as feedstock and 4% during manufacture).
  • Reduced consumption of energy.
  • Reduced amounts of solid waste going to landfill.
  • Reduced emissions of carbon-dioxide (CO2), nitrogen-oxide (NO) and sulphur-dioxide (SO2).

How does the recycling process work?

There are two types of recycling, mechanical and chemical:
  • Mechanical recycling involves the melting, shredding or granulation of waste plastics. Plastics must be sorted prior to mechanical recycling. Most sorting is done manually by trained staff into polymer type and/or colour. Technology is being introduced to sort plastics automatically, using various techniques such as X-ray fluorescence, infrared and near infrared spectroscopy, electrostatics and flotation. Following sorting, the plastic is either melted down directly and moulded into a new shape, or melted down after being shredded into flakes and than processed into granules called regranulate.
  • Chemical or feedstock recycling breaks down polymers into their constituent monomers, which in turn can be used again in refineries, or petrochemical and chemical production.

Global Warming information

Global Warming is an average increase in the Earths temperature, which may cause a disorder in climate, such as changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, stronger storms, etc.

Earth gets warm by natural causes and anthropogenic causes (man-made), such as the Greenhouse Effect. Certain gases in the atmosphere such as water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx) and methane (natural gas, biogas) trap energy from the sun as a blanket on Earth causing temperature to rise.

Degradable plastics or polymers (bags, cutlery, containers, etc) can contribute to a reduction in global warming by becoming biomass, which in turn can increase topsoil and vegetation, both of which are decreasing due to erosion and construction. Since oxo-biodegradable polymers require the same energy for manufacture and transportation and lesser materials for the same function as conventional, non-degradable plastics, they are the most environmentally friendly option at present.