Killing our planet with plastics

begreen Posted By begreen, Jul 2, 2017 at 11:55 AM

  1. begreen

    begreen
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    Third world countries definitely have a serious problem and often one sees the issue where there is no govt. infrastructure to deal with waste or recycling. OTOH when we were in Colombia it was very impressive how clean the streets were in cities like Medellin. Civic pride, environmental employment and good infrastructure really help.
     
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  2. Seasoned Oak

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  3. Seasoned Oak

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    Some of the market that plastic occupies can be taken back by paper products. Things like egg cartons. We landfill all our unrecyclable plastic and it is the lions share of our waste stream. Mostly food packaging.
     
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  4. begreen

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    It's a very big and multifaceted issue. Some govts. have started tackling it, but many continue to ignore the problem. We have created some great non-petroleum based plastics that breakdown safely into organic compounds in the US, but our market is small so they have been developed and marketed in Europe.

    I'm following a series about plastic. So far it has listed some interesting data:

    How plastic is used

    Depending upon the region, packaging consumes 35 to 45 percent of the synthetic polymer produced in total, where the polyolefins dominate. Polyethylene terephthalate, a polyester, dominates the market for beverage bottles and textile fibers.

    Building and construction consumes 20 percent more of the total polymers produced, where PVC pipe and its chemical cousins dominate. PVC pipes are lightweight, can be glued rather than soldered or welded, and greatly resist the damaging effects of chlorine in water. Unfortunately, the chlorine atoms that confer PVC this advantage make it very difficult to recycle — most is discarded at the end of life.

    Polyurethanes, an entire family of related polymers, are widely used in foam insulation for homes and appliances, as well as in architectural coatings.

    The automotive sector uses increasing amounts of thermoplastics, primarily to reduce weight and hence achieve greater fuel efficiency standards. The European Union estimated (PDF) that 16 percent of the weight of an average automobile is plastic components, most notably for interior parts and components.

    Over 70 million tons of thermoplastics per year are used in textiles, mostly clothing and carpeting. More than 90 percent of synthetic fibers, largely polyethylene terephthalate, are produced in Asia. The growth in synthetic fiber use in clothing has come at the expense of natural fibers such as cotton and wool, which require significant amounts of farmland to be produced. The synthetic fiber industry has seen dramatic growth for clothing and carpeting, thanks to interest in special properties such as stretch, moisture-wicking and breathability.

    As in the case of packaging, textiles are not commonly recycled. The average U.S. citizen generates over 90 pounds of textile waste each year. According to Greenpeace, the average person in 2016 (PDF) bought 60 percent more items of clothing every year than the average person did 15 years earlier, and keeps the clothes for a shorter period of time.
    https://www.greenbiz.com/article/world-plastics-numbers
     
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  5. semipro

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    I'm not sure if its true but I heard recently that cigarette butts comprise the majority of plastic waste in oceans.
    Regardless, it seems crazy that we haven't been able to come up with biodegradable cigarette filters by now.
     
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  6. Seasoned Oak

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    I seems that is the case to some extent at least worse than plastic straws. Lots of filtering media is biodegradable starting with your air filter in your car. At least the paper parts of it. Since there is no tax on the bad stuff or requirement to use biodegradable materials ,its a business decision. So dont expect most business to do the right thing voluntarily.
     
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  7. semipro

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    At a Celanese plant not to far from my house they turn trees into acetate plastic for cigarette filters - ironic that.
    As with many plastics, claims are that they are biodegradable. The question is in what time frame and how much damage do they do.
    Like airborne particulate matter, it appears that its the smaller sized particles that actually do the most damage so "breaking down" isn't always a good thing, at least in the short term.

    I'm wondering how my of those that toss their butts away into the environment realize the legacy they're creating.
     
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  8. Ashful

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    Boy, you have a poor view of these noble cigarette companies. It’s not like they’re knowingly putting out a product that could harm people, or something like that...
     
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  9. sportbikerider78

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    Yet many do the right thing voluntarily. As do many individuals who make up companies.

    I suspect we all do many things voluntarily.
     
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  10. begreen

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    Most of the costs are passed on to the consumer and tax payer. Waste collection, disposal and cleanup are not free, nor is health care. Our current system makes it convenient for manufacturers to pass those costs from their products and their manufacture onto the public.
     
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  11. begreen

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    Let's keep on topic for this thread - the effect and problem of dumping billions of tons of plastics into the environment. The taxes and tariffs discussion has moved to the Inglenook.
     
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  12. Seasoned Oak

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    Was somewhat on topic as we were discussing taxes and tariffs as a partial solution to find alternatives to plastic and fund cleanup. But yes, taxes and tariffs could easily occupy its own thread. I applaud the effort of that one ship but it just seems like using spoon to move a mountain . A mountain that is probably growing faster than that one ship can clean it up.
     
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  13. begreen

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    Yes, the problem has to be addressed at the source. We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. 91% of plastics created are not recycled. It doesn't take that long for it to become a global issue and we've been at it for 60 years.
     
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  14. Doug MacIVER

    Doug MacIVER
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    had an uncle that started work in the late 50's for Borg-Warner, the were in every telephone, forever, maybe today.other stuff from women's high heel shoes to electrical boxes. could have pulled off this?
     
  15. Ashful

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    Good recall, but it goes back 20 years before that... when Sam was telling George to invest in plastics.

     
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  16. begreen

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    Plastics started in the early 1900s with bakelite, but their use and purpose was for things meant to last. The ubiquity of disposable plastics and trashing the environment started in the 60's.
     
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  17. semipro

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    I don't understand why we don't do more waste-to-energy conversion, especially with plastics. My understanding is that most plastics are a great fuel.
    Use of abandoned coal power plants for this seems to make sense to me. They typically have the transportation infrastructure, machinery, waste handling, and grid connectivity needed for such an effort.
    I suspect that the equipment required to deal with potential toxic air emissions must be the deal killer.
     
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  18. begreen

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    This is what I would like to see in our region. There is a coal plant in Centralia that is getting decommissioned. It has the rail lines and power infrastructure already in place.
     
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  19. Seasoned Oak

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    Their is talk of holding drug Mfg partly responsible for the addiction opioids cause so we are seeing more business,s be held to account for the impact on society of their products. I am not anti-business at all, just the opposite ,but sometimes govt has to step in and regulate a bit. .
     
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  20. Seasoned Oak

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    A perfect argument for some kind of environmental tax on single use plastic. Sometimes it only takes a penny or two to make switching to a less toxic product, cost effective.
     
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  21. Seasoned Oak

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  22. begreen

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    They have found that bugs like mosquitoes are spreading microplastics to many species of animals, particularly those that eat them.
     
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  23. Ashful

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    This may be true, but let's not ignore the disclaimer, "the study, which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal..."

    Also, "Researchers caution that it's unclear what effect microplastics can have on the human body."

    Definitely something to watch with interest, but I suspect something else might kill me before this is ever settled.
     
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  24. begreen

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    Due caution is warranted about overstating the effect of microplastics in humans. It will take time to study, but by then it could be too late. Plastics have an affinity for all sorts of toxins. This is causing serious scientists to warn of unknown and unexpected consequences. The problem is growing at an alarming rate. Is this worth the risk? We may be too old to be affected, but what about the children?
    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(17)30121-3/fulltext
    https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/22/health/microplastics-land-and-air-pollution-intl/index.html
     
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  25. maple1

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    I agree 100%. Actually find it a bit mind boggling. We have two problems (one is huge and growing and not just confined to plastic waste but waste of all kinds of other burnable stuff) that seem to be solutions to each other. I am quite sure emissions could be dealt with adequately with some tech - aside from that, I don't see where much more investment would be needed. Everything is already mostly in place.
     
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