, ,

Plastic Waste Mountain a Big Problem

Amsterdam, January 9, 2018 — Now that China has closed its doors to the import of plastic waste, plastic is piling up. As was predicted months ago, collectors are now stuck with their plastic because they can no longer export it. While eligible for recycling, much of this plastic waste is now being burned. The incinerators cannot deal with such high demand and the goals of the Netherlands to recycle 54% of consumer and industrial packaging will not be achieved. 

Up until January 1st, China imported much of the West’s plastic waste. The state has begun to regard plastic designated for recycling as undesirable pollution. This measure is part of the Chinese National Sword 2017 Campaign.

It has become apparent that the Netherlands has never taken serious responsibility for its own waste, let alone the recycling thereof. Heavy investments will be needed in order to enable the Netherlands to recycle its largely low-quality plastic waste and to make sure that it is not inferior in quality to new plastic made from petroleum.

There is another way to get rid of plastic waste, and it is striking that this option is not mentioned in the media, for example by the NOS. This other option is simply a drastic reduction in the use of disposable plastic, especially for packaging purposes. Consumption-reduction is now single-handedly the most effective measure in the fight against litter and plastic soup. Where are the reduction policies?

new figures
, , ,

New figures about plastic soup

Since the massive introduction of plastic after the Second World War, 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced. Of this, 6.3 billion tons ended up as waste. Of this waste plastic, only 9% is recycled and 12% incinerated. The remaining 79% has ended up in dumps or in the environment. The worldwide plastic production rose from 2 million tons in 1950 to over 400 million tons in 2015. About half of this was produced only in the last 13 years. If the current trend continues, by 2050 there will be an estimated 12 billion tons of plastic in dumps and in the environment. This is the first time that an estimate has been made of the world-wide production of plastic and what happens to it. The American research appeared in the journal Science Advances.

None of the plastics that are produced at large scale degrade in the environment. Of the 9% that is recycled, only 10% was made from previously recycled plastic. Recycling may lengthen the time it takes for the plastic to enter the environment, but it does not prevent it. Recycling is thus not a real solution for reducing the plastic soup.

Read more about this in our What to do with plastic waste? folder.

, , , ,

Heaps of plastic in Arctic ocean

Amsterdam, 20 April 2017 – Not just the 5 world oceans are polluted by plastic. Parts of the Arctic Ocean are also full of it: up to hundred thousands of pieces per square kilometer. Researchers even speak of a sixth ‘garbage patch’ in the report that was published in scientific journal Science Advances earlier this week.

In 2013 an international team of oceanographers went on an expedition to the polar region to map plastic pollution. They discovered that the pollution is not spread evenly. A large area of the water around the North Pole is practically plastic-free. This mostly occurs to the north of Canada and Siberia.

However, the garbage concentration between Greenland and Nova Zembla is far greater than expected. The researchers estimate that around 300 billion pieces of plastic are floating in the Arctic Ocean. These are tiny pieces of plastic not much bigger than a grain of rice.

“Part of our own plastic ends up in the Artic Ocean,” said oceanographer Erik Sebille of Utrecht University in a dialogue with PSF director Maria Westerbos in a broadcast on BNR news radio today. Most of the Arctic plastic turns out to be from the Western world. Garbage that enters the ocean via the east coast of the United States and the west coast of Europe are carried to the polar region on the gulf stream.

The findings correspond with computer models that predicted this effect before. According to the employed ocean current models a reduction of the European plastic pollution could seriously reduce the amount of plastic in the Arctic Ocean.