MS Risk Blog

Plastic Waste Production

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Almost certainly everyone has seen the National Geographic’s picture of a stork trapped in plastic or have heard the news about the whale that died off the coast of Thailand and the fact that more than 80 plastic bags were swallowed by the mammal.

According to the report of the Association of Plastic Manufacturers, 335 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally a year, which means nearly 1 million ton a day. That is an incredible amount. Half of that amount is produced in Asia. Almost one-third of the global amount is produced in China alone, 4% of it in Japan and 17% is produced by the rest of the Asian countries. Unfortunately, only a fraction of this amount is recycled, the rest is usually dumped in the oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is floating between Hawaii and California, is estimated to be as big as 1.6 million km², which is nearly the size of Indonesia. Plastic pollution is one of the most recent and most deadly threats mankind is facing as it has huge impacts on the life of people and causes problems in nature as well. Currently, countries are trying to tackle the issue on a national level with some multinational initiatives.

In Hong Kong, the food delivery service Deliveroo and Ocean Park have committed to reduce their use of plastic. By the end of the year this partnership aims to make non-plastic packaging options available to all their restaurants worldwide. While Ocean Park teamed-up with more than 800 local restaurants to draw attention to plastic use through schemes like No Straw Friday.

The Indonesian government declared a cooperation with clerics from the country’s two biggest Muslim groups, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, to change consumer behaviour pertaining the use of plastic shopping bags. Jakarta is desperately trying to end its dependency on plastic bags and pledged to reduce its waste volume by 30% by 2025.

In China, a company is providing green canvas bags to people they see walking around carrying a lot of plastic bags to use these instead. Beijing banned supermarkets and retailers from offering free plastic bags a decade ago. Production of bags thinner than 0.025mm is also prohibited. The nationwide campaign cut the number of plastic bags by two thirds according to the National Development and Reform Commission. According to the State Post Bureau, at least 50% of all packing materials used in the courier industry should be degradable and two-thirds of the plastic woven sacks should be replaced with reusable cloth bags by 2020.

One can see that there are countless examples of good initiatives Asia-wide to tackle the issue of plastic waste pollution. The ones mentioned above are just a few examples of how nations try to use the best practices to reduce the production and use of plastic. Yet, it does not provide a solution to the plastic that has already flooded the oceans or dumps. One solution might be the practice already tried in the United Kingdom. In England, plastic is used for roads, which are either entirely or partially made from plastic or composites of plastic with other materials. In Carlisle, a recycled plastic material was involved in the resurfacing of the A7. The plastic used was equivalent to off-setting 500,000 plastic bottles and more than 800,000 single-use plastic carrier bags. According to experiences, roads with plastic are more durable than the traditional roads.

Just imagine of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch disappearing from the ocean and resurfacing as part of the road system in Asia.