The problem with plastics
Organic waste is an environmental disaster, but it’s not the only one out there. A lot of different things go in our bin and perhaps the most spoken about is plastic. While organics have a pretty simple solution (compost!), there’s a lot of concern and confusion surrounding plastic waste.
As your local trash-talkers, we thought we’d get into your non-organic waste, why it’s a problem and what we can do about it.
How bad are they
The amount of plastic thrown away varies from person to person, but all up, the world produces around 300 million tonnes a year!
Barely any of this gets responsibly recycled and an estimated 8 million tonnes actually ends up in our oceans. Once it’s there, marine ecosystems and species are deeply affected, whether it’s entire fishing nets suffocating turtles or tiny plastic particles being ingested by fish.
Unlike the short lifespan of composted organic waste, which rapidly decomposes into a nutritious soil amendment, plastics can stick around for thousands of years. Any plastic you’ve ever thrown away? It’s still out there.
And the issues keep going. Plastics are so durable because they’re made out of fossil fuels. They are the most energy-intensive materials to produce, with the plastic industry accounting for almost 4% of total global emissions. This is more than twice as much as aviation and it’s all so we can have throw-away coffee cups.
Okay, enough doom and gloom - what’s the solution? Managing plastic waste is super different than managing organics but there are a few steps we can all immediately take to fix the plastic problem.
This one is an absolute no-brainer and our best available solution. Almost every single-use plastic item now has a reusable alternative. If you’re still using these, it’s time to get with the decade and invest in a cleaner future by buying some metal straws.
Well actually, not quite. Unlike organic waste, unfortunately recycling plastic just isn’t that great of a fix. While new technologies are emerging, it still remains expensive and energy-intensive to easily recycle old plastics into new. The amount of plastic that out there, contaminated and of poor quality, just makes recycling plastics incredibly difficult.
Odds are all the plastic you’re putting in the recycling bin is just going to landfill.
While recycling is a good solution for certain kinds of plastics, there’s something better on the horizon.
Two words: biodegradable plastics.
Here we come full circle. If a material is biodegradable, that means it’s organic, and that means it can be composted!
So, this isn't 100% true ... yet. As we’ve written about, many items that are labelled “biodegradable” or “compostable” are only able to do so in special, industrial composting conditions. While this is a little misleading, at least they’re not using oil-based plastics and we’re starting to see consumer compostables (items you can throw in your backyard bin) on the rise.
And where there’s a compostable material, there’s a compost bin. At the end of the day, what makes plastic waste different to organic is that we’ll always need to be producing organic waste. Having a means to manage it is where compost comes in and making that compost amazing is where we come in.