Plastics and the environment: Weighing up the complex trade-offs
Should plastics be banned as a material? Never has that question seemed more urgent, as the evidence piles up of the damage plastic is wreaking on our oceans and natural world.
- Some 18 billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year
- The UK discards two double-decker busloads of plastic waste every 30 seconds
- A mere 9% of all plastic produced is recycled.
Yet the answer to whether or not there should be a total ban on plastic is far from straightforward. Cheap and easy to use, it’s embedded in our lives — not just in the bottles and cups we drink from, but in the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the fittings and fixtures in our homes and the packaging of goods sent all over the world.
And while alternatives to plastic do exist, most come with an environmental charge sheet of their own. Producing paper bags, for example, takes four times more energy than it does to produce a plastic bag, and when they degrade paper bags generate 70% more air pollutants.
This report explores the dilemma in detail, including:
- The scale and nature of the challenge
- The pros and cons of alternatives such as bioplastics, paper, glass and aluminium
- What Government, business and society as a whole should be doing collaboratively to tackle the challenge
- Initiatives that are already making a difference at grassroots level.