We must change our attitude towards plastic to become circular

The tarnished name which plastics receives is an undeserving one. We see endless social media posts, articles, television programmes and campaigns demonising plastics, sharing tales of how damaging it is to our planet and how we need to remove plastics to live a greener more sustainable life – this information is the complete opposite of what we should be doing, and the entirely wrong message to be broadcasting. We need to utilise plastics as a material to become circular.

The issue is waste, not the material, and certainly not just plastic waste. The media shares with us plastic-filled oceans and beaches, messy countrysides and city centres – this is undoubtably a very big issue, but is it fair to blame plastics as a material? No, it is not. The blame should be solely placed on the individual who harbours poor waste management skills and litters in the first instance.

The litter isn’t the only issue, another is the misunderstanding about the alternatives to plastics. These alternatives are promoted to be the ‘greener’ option to plastics, and as such manufacturers and big brands and supermarkets are encouraged to make swaps with their packaging. These swaps are in fact causing more damage to the environment, as the alternatives to plastics are far less resource-efficient. Paper is a material that is often used to replace plastics, in both shopping bags and other forms of plastics, as it is seen as a greener option. In reality, paper is a far heavier product, which uses up far more of the earth’s resources to produce and creates far higher CO2 levels in production and recycling. A survey found that consumers would have to use a paper carrier bag 4 times, to be as environmentally friendly as using a 5p plastic carrier once. A cotton carrier bag has the shocking statistics that is must be used 137 times to match in resource efficiency to a ‘single use’ carrier. Paper and cotton also have far higher contamination levels, which means it is often harder to recycle as it cannot be cleaned – unlike plastics.

Plastics have a misconception of being ‘single-use’, which is a misleading message to consumers, resulting in them disposing of an item that has a far greater lifespan. Plastic bottles, containers, bags and so much more can be used numerous times before they should be recycled, plastics are a robust material, made to last – which allows for great maintenance of the product. In comparison, many paper products lose their quality after just a single use and as such are not re-usable.

We must open our eyes to the reality that plastics are NOT the enemy and are in fact the greener option, contrary to public belief. Banning and removing plastics from our systems will be far worse off for the planet, and completely go against the sustainability goals set. We must realise the value plastics hold and the amazing positives it provides us with, ignoring the media brainwashing. Plastics are fantastic.