The Impact of Climate Change on Plastic Usage and Disposal

Alfred Tang

Hatched by Alfred Tang

Sep 04, 2023

3 min read

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The Impact of Climate Change on Plastic Usage and Disposal

Introduction:

Climate change is a pressing issue that affects various aspects of our lives, from global temperatures to extreme weather events. In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the use and disposal of plastic materials, particularly those labeled as "biodegradable." This article aims to explore the connection between climate change and plastic usage, as well as the challenges faced in managing plastic waste.

The Misunderstood Nature of PLA:

One significant development in the plastic industry is the introduction of polylactic acid (PLA), a type of biodegradable plastic. However, despite its environmentally friendly characteristics, PLA is now banned in several locations. This ban stems from the misconception that PLA can be treated similarly to traditional plastics, resulting in its improper disposal. The mixing of PLA with regular plastics during recycling processes affects its second-life plastic properties, leading to its classification as non-recyclable waste.

The Role of Plastic in Climate Change:

As average global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, the impact on our environment becomes more apparent. The addition of just one degree Celsius to the average global temperature has far-reaching consequences. Extreme weather events such as floods, fires, and storms displace more than 20 million people annually, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. Furthermore, the melting of glaciers and ice sheets has caused a 20-centimeter rise in the global sea level in the last 150 years, posing a threat to low-lying areas.

The Vicious Cycle of Climate Change and Plastic Waste:

Climate change and plastic waste create a vicious cycle, exacerbating each other's negative effects. The energy-intensive production of plastic materials contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, further fueling climate change. Moreover, the improper disposal of plastic waste, including PLA, contaminates ecosystems and exacerbates environmental degradation. The accumulation of plastic waste in oceans and landfills releases harmful chemicals and microplastics, which disrupt marine life and enter the food chain.

Addressing the Issue:

1. Foster Proper Plastic Management:

To tackle the issue of plastic waste and its contribution to climate change, it is crucial to promote proper plastic management practices. This includes educating individuals and businesses on the appropriate use, recycling, and disposal of plastic materials. Implementing comprehensive recycling programs and establishing clear guidelines for plastic waste management can help reduce the environmental impact.

2. Encourage Sustainable Alternatives:

While PLA has faced challenges in its recycling and disposal, it is essential to explore and encourage the use of sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics. Researchers and industry experts should continue to innovate and develop materials that are both biodegradable and easily recyclable. Governments and organizations can support these efforts by providing incentives and funding for sustainable plastic solutions.

3. Promote Circular Economy:

Transitioning from a linear economy to a circular economy is vital in addressing the plastic waste issue. The circular economy model emphasizes reducing waste through recycling, reusing, and repurposing materials. By implementing circular economy practices, we can minimize the extraction of natural resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the impact of climate change.

Conclusion:

Climate change and plastic waste are interconnected challenges that require urgent action. Understanding the relationship between these two issues can help us adopt sustainable practices and develop innovative solutions. By fostering proper plastic management, encouraging sustainable alternatives, and promoting the circular economy, we can strive towards a more environmentally friendly and resilient future. Let us work together to protect our planet for future generations.

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