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Path to Zero Waste includes a huge focus on plastics and the need to check plastic pollution

Many jurisdictions are implementing policies to curb single use plastics and avoid the pollution management of plastic waste.

Public perception is that plastic waste is multifaceted. That being said it will require a diversified approach to mitigate the current issues. A diversified approach, should include enabling policies, education, increased awareness, improved design and alternative uses for end of intended life processes, all useful to changing behaviours.

The question remains and will continue to be, how to mitigate the harmful effects of plastics on the environment?

Plastic is the common term for a wide range of synthetic or semi synthetic organic amorphous solid materials derived from oil, natural gas and more recently plant based materials. The unique characteristics of plastic enables humanity with many benefits to our current quality of life, it is inexpensive, flexible, versatile, lightweight, heat and cold resistant. These qualities make it a valuable material for many functions, products and also providing environmental benefits through certain supply chains and enabling renewable energy development.

Plastics plays a critical role in maintaining and enabling quality healthcare service and delivery, medications, food quality, transportation, manufacturing, agriculture, safety and even preventing waste.

The major negative concern about plastics is their longevity and whether or not they are truly biodegradable. Most plastics would take 500 to 1000 years to break down into organic components. Because of this longevity and low rate of recycling much of the plastic waste end up in landfills or as litter. Human behaviour and careless habits contribute to some plastic waste making their way into landfills, waterways and wind into the ocean. Garbage barges form North America to Asian countries transporting “recyclable” materials also lead to an increasing amount of plastics in the oceans and waterways.

Plastic pollution can take different forms including the accumulation of waste, the accumulation of marine litter, fragments or microparticles of plastics and non-biodegradable fishing nets, which continue to trap wildlife and waste and so forth. Plastic pollution is driven mainly by human negligence and the damaging effects of natural disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes and floods.

Should we have and outright ban on all plastics? Before we do, we must consider the impacts and investigate the alternatives. Improving the overall resource optimization process and value-added uses of plastics, plastic is not waste!

It has multiple uses beyond its original intended purpose. “End of life plastics” can be reused in road fill, filler for cement blocks, renewable energy generation devices, batteries, electronics, ropes, baskets, building materials, mats and bags. We must inform and educate citizens on the continuous value of plastics and place a monetary value on all forms of plastics (Taxes is not the solution) to change our behaviours and improve our environment.

The inability of citizens to manage plastics use and government inability to diversify and incentify plastic reuse in manufacturing and feed stock industries, contributes to our current state of waste and waste management. Waste Management is not the solution and it occurs after the deed is done, we must be proactive in identifying multiple uses and reuse opportunities in a circular economy and it is not tool late to reconsider how we manufacture use and reuse plastics. We must stop developing policies that are punitive, restrictive and costly to the average citizens. Additional tax burdens and higher costs will add pressures on social services budgets, crating a vicious economic spiral.

Plastic waste is a physical representation of the resources we've used, albeit a very small sample of the large picture, but a physical representation none the less. The true essence of Zero waste is to redesign the system so that resources don't have to be discarded. Rather they can be resumed back into the system like in nature.

Being forced by regulators to move away from plastics, society will be faced with drastic economical impacts across the Health, Human services, Pharmaceutical, Agriculture, Transportation and Energy industries.

Residual waste is a problem to be prevented!

Everyone claims they want to minimise residual waste, yet many industries depend and will benefit from reuse and repurpose. Resource optimization and reuse is our new way of thinking, time to “Dump the Dump”.

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