December 03 2019 ■ Science
The Impact of Single-Use Plastics on our Environment
The success of the July 1st official ban of single-use plastic shopping bags tells us it is now time now to tackle the major issue of facing up to the consequences single-use plastics are having on our environment.
Our company, Just Water New Zealand, supports and encourages New Zealanders to get on board with using sustainable solutions to urgently reduce our country’s plastic footprint. This is the reason we are making a stand by stopping the sale of single-use plastics.
Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. This includes water bottles, plastic cutlery and unmanageable amounts of food packaging.
What is the impact of single-use plastics on the environment?
There are many studies that show the negative impacts that single-use plastics have on our environment and on our health.
1. Effects on our environment
Plastic is toxic to our environment because of the chemicals and petroleum used to make it. Petroleum is not biodegradable, meaning it cannot be broken down naturally. Therefore, these toxins end up in landfills and finds its way into our waterways and oceans.
2. Plastic waste is growing at an alarming rate
According to scientific research we are now producing around 300 million tons of plastic each year globally.
3. Not recyclable
Only a small 10-13% of all plastics are recycled successfully.
4. Impact on our oceans
It’s estimated that by 2025 there could be an excess of 8 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans and waterways.
5. Unable to be broken down easily
Single-use plastics like water bottles can take 450 years or longer to decompose.
Plastic unable to be broken down naturally turn into micro-plastics (small pieces of plastic that are nearly impossible to get rid of). Micro-plastics absorb toxins, release BPA (Bisphenol A) and get ingested by animals such as fish and then progresses through the food chain to human consumption.
7. Impact on Wildlife
According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), plastic can cause choking and prevents food digestion in animals which often results in death.
8. Air pollutants
Plastic releases poisonous gases into the air impacting both animals and humans.
9. Plastic can be hidden in many forms
Plastic comes in many forms and can be hidden in things that we may be unaware of.
10. Plastic packaging is often unavoidable
Medication often comes in unavoidable packaging e.g. to ensure products remain sterile.
What CAN we do?
Ultimately, eliminating single-use plastics means changing to eco-friendly ways. For example, buying in bulk and using eco-friendly containers. Just Water’s contribution to the environment is offering long-term filtered water solutions that limit the use of single-use plastics. Most importantly, water bottles. The solution we offer is chilled, filtered water in dispensers.
Be a tidy kiwi, avoid non-recyclable single-use plastics like water bottles, straws or containers and re-use the plastic that is already around. E.g. refill your existing plastic containers at bulk food stores.
Recycle as much as possible and support organisations who are part of this movement. Ask your local council which plastics are and are not recyclable.
For more information on plastic recycling visit: https://www.recycling.kiwi.nz/solutions/soft-plastics/.
For more information regarding changes to hard and soft plastic recycling and single-use plastics, you can visit: https://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/single-use-plastic-shopping-bags-banned-new-zealand.