Plastic is a versatile material that can help reduce man’s carbon footprint but the industry needs to do more to encourage closed loop recycling and reduce reliance on one-use plastic items, an environmental expert has warned.
Speaking to PRW.com, Dr Richard Thompson, a lecturer in marine biology at the University of Plymouth, agreed the plastics industry had taken a battering since the BBC last week aired programmes about the negative impact the material was having on marine life in the Pacific island of Midway.
Thompson, whose research fed into the BBC reports, told PRW.com that plastics had many environmental benefits. This includes the use of lightweight, components in vehicles that can reduce carbon emissions and save up to 10% of fuel costs, compared to the metal counterparts used 40 years ago, he said.
But the marine expert called on industry to address the amount of plastic produced for one-trip items.
He said: “Where we fall down at the moment is that 40% of plastics produced are going to be used only once. We need to aspire to closed loop recycling and be smarter about designing particularly single use items. Can we avoid them and move towards items that can be used for considerable amounts of time? That’s part of the biggest challenge to industry.”
Solutions, he added, include moving away from the mixture of polymers used in plastic bottles, caps and sleeves. Instead, he urged designers to limit the range of polymers, to enable more recycling opportunities.
In addition, he said consumers were keen to be seen doing the right thing. “If industry could come up with a range of plastic packaging materials that had a high ability to be recycled at the end of life, I think consumers would be keen to buy products. I don’t see much evidence of that.”