Studies been carried out have shown that there is estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean – including everything from bottles to bags. There is a lot of bad press about plastics at late, but there are also so many benefits to the material that many people forget, ignore or maybe don’t even know.
Reduction of other Waste
Plastics are often seen as a wasteful resource, when in fact they are the exact opposite – they help in reducing waste, in particular food. Plastic packing has been proven to greatly extend the shelf life of food products. Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, this number will rise enormously with the reduction of food packaging. Vacuum plastic packaging prevents discoloration and deterioration of meats, extending its shelf life 10 times longer than store-wrapped meat, resulting in 75 percent less food waste. At a recent TEDx event, Kim Ragaert gave everyone a ‘Plastic Rehab‘, during this brilliant presentation she spoke about some incredible realities of the benefits of plastics, some of these included the reduction of food waste. Kim used two examples of popular foods, one a cucumber where with plastic packaging the shelf life is extended by 11 days, the other a steak which is extended by an incredible 26 days! And just to make it even more impressive, cucumbers only need 2 grams of plastic to be preserved for almost 2 weeks.
Unlike its alternatives, plastic packaging and bags weigh considerably less. As an example, a plastic bag can weigh as little as 8 grams, whereas a paper bag weighs at its lowest 50 grams, and a cotton shopping bag is considerably more at 250 grams! Of course, these additional weights are also extended through to transportation. Heavier items will not only increase the CO2 emissions that are being emitted, but also often take up more space which will mean that the quantity that will fit into one transportation trip will be far fewer than that of plastic – so more lorries will be required for the same quantity.
Durable & Reusable
Plastic bags are now being encouraged to be reused, which according to studies, 59% of us do. Compared to paper bags, which may get recycled but never reused. Although you can use a cotton shopping bag considerably more times, the energy and resources that it takes to produce means you will have to use your bag over 170 times to break even environmentally, not the mention the hygienic issues with these bags. This means that despite the bad publicity, it is actually far better to re-use your plastic bags.
As well as bags, plastics packaging also weighs much less and takes far few resources to produce. Also, the use of plastic bottles rather than alternatives leads to savings of up to 40% on distribution fuel costs and saves on transport pollution.
Despite what you might think, plastics are often the unsung heroes of the packing world, which is why we feel a plastic education will go a long way.