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Why the plastic problem is not just solved

on May 12, 2021

The focus is often on the recycling of plastic. With a surplus of plastic waste that never decays and an ever-growing production of plastic items, this sounds like music to your ears. Recycling plastic ensures that new plastic can be made from plastic waste. Sounds good right? Unfortunately, in practice it is (often) not so easy.

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Plastic has a number of advantages. The production process is cheap, you can use it to package products watertight and medical products and foodstuffs can best be wrapped in plastic to become wrapped up. But, in addition to those advantages, there are also a number of disadvantages. Plastic contains many toxic substances, is difficult to recycle and our recycling systems cannot handle the amount of plastic that we have to incinerate. When plastic is incinerated, additional toxic substances are released.

Preventing plastic pollution
As in our previous blog about plastic waste as mentioned, more and more plastic is produced every year. By 2050, more than 600 million tons of plastic items will be produced per year. And that while the recycling systems can no longer handle the amount of plastic. 28 large international companies, including Philips and Shell, have therefore Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) founded. Together they invest approximately 1 billion euros with the aim of minimizing the leakage of plastic waste into the environment.

An initiative where the Royal Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI) enthusiastic about publishing. The projects that the AEPW supports are mostly projects that improve infrastructure in less developed countries. Often there is no system from the government that ensures the return of plastic by consumers. In many countries there is therefore a lot of plastic lying around and tons of plastic items disappearing into rivers. That large companies make a lot of money available to stimulate projects in these countries sounds great to us!

The biggest plastic polluter in the world: Coca Cola
That is exactly the intention of those large companies. Many of these large companies are committed to recycling plastic. Let's take Coca-Cola as an example. Research has shown that they are the largest plastic polluters in the world. Not surprising when you look at the production of the company. Worldwide, Coca-Cola produces 88 billion bottles per year. Like many other companies, the company places the responsibility for the plastic waste that remains after consumption on the consumer. The company wants consumers to return the bottles by means of a deposit. In this way, Coca-Cola wants to recycle all packaging worldwide by 2025. 

Something the Plastic Soup Foundation strongly doubted. Coca-Cola also sells soft drinks in countries where there is no deposit system. It is not clear how Coca-Cola is going to ensure that every can and bottle sold there is collected again and thus does not end up in nature. In addition, the question arises: how does Coca-Cola ensure that when a bottle is thrown on the street, it is ultimately recycled?

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Producing even more plastic....
Coca-Cola is not the only company to walk away from the responsibility of the resulting plastic problem. Many large companies blame the plastic problem on the consumer. But, we trust the 28 major international companies that founded the AEPW, right? Because those companies were going to ensure that the plastic problem would be actively tackled.

After examining the Plastic Soup Foundation shows that on the one hand it is pretended that the industry can combat pollution, while on the other hand a lot of new plastic is produced. wait, what? That's how it is. Shell, ExxonMobil and Dow (Oil giants belonging to the 28 initiators of the AEPW) are investing tens of billions of dollars in the construction of new plastic factories. Making new plastic is so cheap that recycling can only be sustained with taxpayers' money. Something that can only be achieved in prosperous countries… 

So, in short, the AEPW is investing just over a billion euros to combat plastic pollution. But it invests tens of billions in producing new plastic. That sounds like mopping with a lot of taps open.

Unfortunately no solution (yet) for the plastic crisis
It shows once again that the plastic problem is very complicated. And it also makes it clear that there isn't really a clear-cut solution. Companies are lobbying a lot not to get taxes on plastic and until recently Coca-Cola preferred not to have a deposit on its products at all. It seems that more and more companies are realizing the seriousness of the plastic problem. 

It is hoped that companies will quickly opt for other packaging or at least take responsibility for the plastic they produce. For example, governments could introduce a tax on plastic. As a result, companies are more or less forced to choose other, more sustainable packaging.

Want to reduce your plastic use yourself?
Although we believe that the plastic problem lies largely with large companies, you can also do something yourself to reduce your plastic use. By making adjustments to our daily lives you can already save kilos of plastic on an annual basis. Because a lot of little bits ultimately help a lot! 

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