Our aim is to debunk the myths according to which plastic is particularly pollutant without for this idealizing plastic nor demonizing any other material, as anticipated in the previous article. We want to examine in depth some of the most consolidated fake news, trying to report the scientific truths that emerge from analyzed data avoiding mystifications that do not bring any advantages to the planet.
Fake news nr. 1: Paper, cotton, glass and metal are “greener” than plastics.
There is a tool that allow us to determine what is goods and what is not for the environment and is called “LCA”- Life Cycle Assessment. This tool examines the whole life cycle of every product, from the extraction and processing of raw materials, to the manufacturing, the transport, the distribution, the use, the possible re-use, the collection, the storage, the recycle and finally the disposal. Through the different products that have been analyzed, in general, plastic turned out to be a better choice than cotton, metal, glass and usually paper. Scientific studies have demonstrated that the best materials, environmentally speaking, are PE, PP and PET mainly thanks to their low weight that brings 2 advantages: a minor use of material and therefore a lower environmental impact due to transports compared to other materials. Replacing plastic believing it’s dangerous for the environment would mean consuming many more materials, energy and resources and producing more waste and CO2, generating a bigger damage to the ecosystem.
Fake news nr.2: Plastics are the cause of our waste problem.
The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Environmental Agency (EEA) register the quantity of litter produced every year respectively in USA and Europe. Through the analysis of the gathered data, emerges that plastic only contributes for a small fraction to the whole waste produced every year, around 12%. Even though the quantity of litter increases in relation to the demographic increase, in the past years there has been a noticeable trend inversion. This means that an element has been introduced in the system and that this element contributes in reducing the per capita production of waste: plastic. Thanks to its weight and to its peculiarities, not only it reduces the volume of the waste produced but it can also be recycled and re-used multiple times without compromising its qualities. Furthermore, it’s estimated that other materials could produce 3 – 4 times more litter. Plastic is not a polluting product on its own, the major cause of pollution is the human being and the irresponsible use he makes of this material, scattering it in the environment and/or non recycling it in the correct way. If some materials must be responsible for the waste problem, then these would be paper and carboard as they contribute to foster waste through flyers, newspapers and catalogues that are usually thrown away without being looked at.
In the next articles we will talk more about other fake news regarding plastic in order to make decisions that can really make a positive difference.