Folks in England were stunned and dismayed when they found out that testing of local river waters had much higher concentrations of microplastics than the previous hot spot, South Korean beaches. Textiles were the suspected cause.
There are bioplastics made out of wood pulp derivatives, they tend to break down in the environment easier. Hard to beat the price of fossil based plastics. Oil companies realize that the markets for fossil fuels could decline so they are investing in making more plastics. BTW plastics can be readly converted back to transportation fuels it just cost more than drilling a hole in the ground. Throw in carbon taxes and the plastics issues changes radically.
It's a changing scenario. #1&2 plastics are quite recyclable (or downcyclable) and therefor have value and processors in the US and Canada. #6 is also pretty recyclable. The others now are mostly landfilled or incinerated if they are not turned into fuel. Quantities are still being shipped to third world countries, but that is a messy process that is being curtailed in many countries because of the rampant pollution created.Wait...does any country take recyclables anymore? I heard China cut us off for being messy. I don't think we're paying folks in this country to clean food and other muck off recyclables.
That is a somewhat fallacious question. Plastics are cheap to make, and often offer cheap packaging solutions, but the actual costs of plastics to the taxpayer, the environment, and life itself are now becoming huge. Remember that the ubiquity of plastics in packaging is a new problem, only gaining steam for the past 30 yrs. But the results are now ever-present in the environment and the tolls are getting high. We are all breathing, eating and drinking plastics as they break down into micro and nanoparticles.
But how many barges per minute to support it?
I didn't know about the packing peanuts and cellophane coming from environmentally friendly base stock. A few years ago I worked in a shipping and receiving department and did notice the packing peanuts dissolve in water, but didn't know why. Most are now using the foam S shaped packing material instead of the "peanut" type, and they are a mess.There are many alternatives out there, they just cost more. The starch based packing peanuts are an example, they work just as well as foam if kept dry but they cost more. Throw them in a bucket of water and they dissolve into a very biodegradable liquid. Cellophane is made of highly processed wood fiber, it biodegrades like toilet paper. IMO it comes down to unless some industry is required to deal with its ultimate disposal, then they go with cheapest stuff they can get and that is usually made with petroleum. University of Maine has been developing replacements for plastic precursors for many years. Its not question of if its economics, bio based products usually cost more than virgin products made with cheap fossil. Add a carbon tax and the rules change.
I have seen several studies that show that a vast majority of plastic entering the oceans comes from third world countries that basically dump their trash in major river systems. There is no attempt or interest in treatment. Ocean plastics is predominantly third world driven issue.
When I worked for a papermill we had a wastewater treatment plant. We used a lot of clays and fillers to make our paper. it ended up in our treatment plant and would be hauled to landfill. We had to mine gravel to mix with it so that it was stable enough to pile. Our corporate research group got some samples and discovered that kitty litter was made with clays and fillers. They could easily use our sludge for making kitty litter and there was obviously a ready market. It looked great but our corporate lawyers would not sign off it in case of future liability for the kitty litter in case there might be something in the sludge that was deemed hazardous in the future.
The sad part is im sure there are too many that do. While traveling through some third world countries i noticed they burn everything, including a huge amount of plastic the majority being single use water bottles. Much of the rest ends up in the canals to be flushed out into the ocean with the next rain. Its a huge problem for the air the land and the sea.Eh, I just throw it all in the Outdoor Wood Burner. Problem solved!
(I really don't, and I dont have an OWB, but it was really fun to write that sentence!)