The urgency to remove plastic from daily use has never been higher as initiatives like the viral hashtag #RefuseTheStraw and taxes on plastic bags become more common. The scientific community as well as the public are beginning to realize the long-term effects of one-time-use plastic packaging as it accounts for half of the 300 million tons manufactured annually. These are clear signs that plastic is on a verge of extinction.
Plastic begins in the factory and ends in the store, so without major change in production and sales individuals do not have many options to create a major difference. So, stores like Ekoplaza in the Netherlands plan to make a impact by working with manufacturers who use alternatives to plastic like cardboard, reusable metal, and biodegradable plant-based wrapping. Many other grocery shops have adopted refillable containers for bulk shopping and eco-friendly bagging options like paper or cloth.
To incentivize businesses and the public, many governments have put bans or taxes on items like plastic bags and have begun campaigns to eliminate plastic all together. For instance, the EU has set a goal to make all plastic in circulation either recyclable or reusable by 2030. This effort is coupled with public reforms like providing clean drinking water to limit water bottle purchases and providing clear labeling and receptacles for recycling.
Probably the most challenging piece of the puzzle is getting individuals on board. There are many eco-conscience people around the world who take the effort to throw a bottle in the correct bin or decide to start a compost using biodegradable alternatives, but what about everyone else? To get the attention of the mass population simple solutions and clear facts must be presented to the traditional consumer who might be disinclined to change their old ways. Once alternatives are in place and removing plastic is not a burden rather a solution, then everyone will be happy to attend plastic’s funeral.
More plastic have been produced in the last decade than in the last century, so there was a time before plastic. It has only been used because it is cheap, multi-purposeful, and convenient. But, knowledge and technology exists today to reverse the plastic epidemic.