Less Single-Use Plastic, More Benefits
Historically, our rate of consumption has never been higher and faster than it is today. With the increased consumption of half a trillion tonnes of materials since 2017, there has also been an increased amount of waste. At this rate, we have already surpassed six of nine planetary boundaries regarding climate change, pollution, and biodiversity. Of the 100 billion tonnes of materials that flow through the global economy each year, only 8.6% is getting recycled. Of the plastic manufactured today, 40% is disposable packaging. The need for improved recycling systems and a new way of designing products is urgent, we must move away from the throwaway culture that does not consider the entire lifecycle of a product and move towards circularity that better makes use of the value within these products.
For the last century, plastic has been mass-produced and is a part of everyday life all around the world. Plastic is used to wrap the food we eat, it’s in our clothing, it’s in the structures we live and work in, it’s in our cars, and it’s in the products we buy and in their packaging. Every year, 380 million tonnes of plastic are produced from oil and coal and more the most part, end up in the ocean, in rivers, and in landfills. Not only is it a harmful production process that emits greenhouse gases, but the disposal process is not any better.
It is too idealistic to say that the solution is to completely get rid of plastics all together. It’s not possible. Plastics will be around for much longer due to how long-lasting they are but also because there are some advantages that remain and instances where an alternative is not yet available. Some advantages include sterilization in the medical field, plastic-wrapped foods lasting longer, and the lightweight material can also decrease fuel use in vehicles.
Most recently, after years of seeing the impacts of plastic pollution, representatives of 175 countries in the UN Environment Assembly endorsed a resolution to end plastic pollution through and international—and legally binding—agreement. At the same time more countries are adopting circular strategies and regulations that support this kind of resolution, such as the UK Plastic Packaging tax. Circular economy strategies aim to design out waste and pollution to extract the full value of a material already in circulation. With only 20 companies responsible for half the world’s single-use plastic waste, commitments and changes on their end would have a huge impact. Instead of producing more plastic, it’s imperative we take action that makes the most of what is already out there. These changes need to take place along the entire product life cycle to allow for better end-of-life management. Products need to be designed to be recycled and the systems and infrastructure must be in place to collect and recycle these items. The brands and businesses that take the steps towards a circular plastics economy, set, and work towards sustainability targets, and remain transparent about their progress, are the ones that will help drive the transition forward and make a difference. Similarly, consumers and business leaders will have to be willing to pay a higher price to invest in a more sustainable future.
It requires a joint effort, but it ultimately benefits everyone. Moving towards circularity and scaling the recycling of plastics is an opportunity for governments to reduce emissions, reach sustainability and Paris Agreement targets, and build more inclusive and resilient economies. At MikaCycle, we aim to be a part of this transition and facilitate the trade of recycled plastics so that more of an impact can be made. Through our current crowdfunding campaign, we aim to link plastic waste suppliers, plastic recyclers, polymer manufacturers, and consumer goods companies together into a closed-loop plastic waste recycling ecosystem. As we continue to grow, we want to capitalize on current audit-based methods and Blockchain technology to certify proof of origin and material value to address the challenges in the recycling industry. Additionally, we hope to create employment for the marginalized, and any individual who may need to monetize the plastic waste collected using the blockchain.