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Since the 1950s, the production of plastic is greater than that of almost all the materials that exist and, in addition, most of this plastic is designed so that after its use it is discarded. The global production of single-use plastic has not stopped growing and is associated with the consumption model of the world population, such as the increase in the "take away" service or the celebration of events (birthdays, parties …) in the that it is "easier" to use and dispose of, than to use and wash.
If you want to know what single-use plastics are and what damage plastic does to the environment, continue reading this interesting Green Ecologist article in which we clarify what are single-use plastics, examples, consequences and prohibition of these.
What are single-use plastics
Single-use plastics are those designed and manufactured so that they can be used only once before being recycled or discarded, the latter being the action that is most carried out since according to the UN, around 9% of plastics are recycled Worldwide. Therefore, there are plastics that we use for a few minutes and then end up in ecosystems, taking several centuries to degrade and contaminate during all this time.
We recommend you learn about the different types of plastics with this other post.
Examples of single-use plastics
As already mentioned, plastics of this type are those that are used and then thrown away, some examples of single-use plastics are as follows (the time it takes to degrade is also indicated):
- Plastic bags, which take up to 400 years to decompose. We recommend you to know these Alternatives to replace plastic bags.
- Plastic bottles, present in the environment for 450 years if left in the environment.
- Unicel, so used for food packaging or to pack furniture and that it can take more than 500 years to disappear naturally.
- Straws or canes to drink, something so small that it may not seem harmful, generates a great problem for marine species, since they can ingest them causing their drowning, it takes up to more than 100 years to degrade.
- Ear buds, a tool that, in addition to not being the most suitable for cleaning the ear, takes 300 years to degrade.
- Plastic tableware used for events with a large number of people in order to save time and comfort since they are thrown away and not cleaned, this time saving means the generation of tons of plastics that will take 50 years to decompose.
We recommend you read this other article by Green Ecologist on How long does it take for plastic to degrade.
Image: CCIN report
Consequences of single-use plastic
The single-use plastic issues that are not well managed can be of different types:
- Cost of transporting waste to recycling plants.
- Investment for cleaning garbage in natural areas.
- Contamination of water bodies and soils.
- Between 60-90% of the garbage found in the sea is plastic.
- Blockage of waterways and natural disasters worsen.
- Marine animals end up ingesting plastics, passing these into the food chain, and many of these die from the problems that plastics create in their digestive systems.
- They end up clogging sewage networks, becoming perfect areas for mosquito breeding, raising the possibility of disease transmission.
- When plastics decompose, they release chemicals that are toxic to health or give off emissions if they are burned.
- Visual contamination by plastics found in the environment, causing a loss in well-being.
- Damage to the digestive system due to microplastics introduced into the food chain.
It is estimated that by the year 2050 the amount of plastic discarded in the environment and landfills will be around 12 million metric tons. This will happen as long as the correct measures are not taken so that the consumption model is not based on the use of plastic and, in addition, good waste management must be carried out in order to eliminate single-use plastic, to that the environment and the health of living beings are not affected.
To learn more about the problems of this material, you can read this other article on How to avoid plastic contamination.
Single-use plastics ban
There are already many countries that join the regulation of single-use plastics, depending on the regulations of each area it will be seen what plastics are prohibited.
- The first country in the world to ban plastic bags as early as 2002 was Bangladesh.
- The use of disposable plastics has been phased out in airports in India.
- In Europe, by the year 2022, the sale of single-use plastics such as cotton buds, straws, cutlery or glasses will be banned.
- In 25 countries in Africa the use of plastic bags is prohibited, in some of them, such as Kenya, their use is even punishable by jail time.
- In the American continent, Chile is a pioneer in the ban on the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and large establishments and Costa Rica announced that by 2022 it would join the ban on all plastics designed for single use.
- New Zealand began to ban plastic bags as early as 2022, as did the large Australian supermarket chains.
- In Mumbai, the use of plastic bottles, cups or bags is punishable by jail time.
In this video we talk about the serious problem posed by plastics in the sea.
If you want to read more articles similar to Single-use plastics: what they are, examples, consequences and prohibition, we recommend that you enter our Pollution category.
- Sandra Maldonado. (Sep 25, 2022). Oceana Peru. 10 Graphic data on single-use plastics: https://peru.oceana.org/es/blog/10-datos-graficos-sobre-los-plasticos-de-un-solo-uso#:~:text= 1., 2.
- Drafting of the Alpedrete City Council. (Aug 20, 2022). Alpedrete Town Hall. 1 straw takes more than 100 years to degrade: https://www.alpedrete.es/1-pajita-tarda-en-degradarse-mas-de-100-anos/
- Drafting of Agencia EFE. (Jun 5, 2022). EFE Agency. The UN warns that only 9% of the plastic used in the world is recycled: https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/sociedad/la-onu-advierte-de-que-solo-el-9- used-plastic-in-the-world-is-recycled / 10004-3638488