One of the things that’s worrying me more and more as each day goes by is plastic. It’s everywhere and there are more and more reports on TV (and everywhere) about the huge problems disposed plastic is causing for the world. So, I keep wondering why the world can’t just ban new plastic. That might sound extreme, but it makes plenty of sense to me and it would definitely work.

I’m not talking about banning plastic completely, which would be impossible. But what if, from today onwards, all the plastic used by corporations had to be recycled?

Plastic is a huge problem

I was astonished when I read this article on The Economist – Only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. For me, the key details in this article are;

  • (obviously!) only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled
  • Since the 1950’s, we have created 4.9 billions tonnes of plastic that is still in circulation (that is, not recycled or burned)
  • Our seas hold as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles

This graph from the article created some alarm for me;

ban new plastic

See how little is actually recycled. Only 0.5 billion tonnes out of 8.3 billion. There is another 0.7 billion tonnes that have been incinerated, but that’s not good either because it just releases the CO2 into the atmosphere.

Only 9% of the world’s plastic has ever been recycled. This article is also worth reading – A Whopping 91% of Plastic Isn’t Recycled – from National Geographic. A couple of quotes from this article are;

The rapid acceleration of plastic manufacturing, which so far has doubled roughly every 15 years, has outpaced nearly every other man-made material.

…8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. That is the equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.

We as a society need to consider whether it’s worth trading off some convenience for a clean, healthy environment

Why is plastic not recycled?

There can only be one reason. Money! It’s cheaper and easier to make new plastic than recycle.

That’s it. Nothing more to say. We’d prefer to make more money from other people by using cheap plastics, than preserve the beautiful world we were given.

End of story on this one.

Ban new plastic – what would happen?

What would happen is making new plastic was made illegal? If any plastic products we wanted had to be made from recycled plastics? If it is possible to recycle plastics, then there is certainly enough already in the world and we don’t need to create more.

The world would work just fine under a new plastic ban, but there’d be a lot of large, powerful companies very unhappy. They make so much money from plastic, they’d be quite mad and put a lot of pressure on governments. But that’s not a big deal in the end.

There would be lots of new opportunities for companies to get on with recycling. They’d be creating new technologies to recycle in new and better ways. Recycling would be where the money is. People would be out there trying to recover plastics for recycling. The world would be very different (in a good way) very quickly.

A ban on new plastic is the quickest way to solve this environmental crisis. It would be a shock for the world, but we’d cope. No problem. If world governments came together and agreed to ban new plastic, it would be the quickest way to solve this urgent problem.

Do we have the strength to take this problem head-on?

Of course, until they ban new plastic, we can all use less and less plastic. Every day is a chance to use less plastic.