Recycling Challenge: Eliminating Plastic Bags But without “Demonizing” the Material

    Some studies indicate that each person spends an average of 230 plastic bags a year, which is equivalent to more than 500 billion worldwide

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    Eliminating highly polluting single-use plastic bags without “demonizing” a material with many virtues is one of the main challenges of recycling, as explained by several specialists on the International Day Free of Plastic Bags that is commemorated this Month.

    Some studies indicate that each person spends an average of 230 plastic bags a year, which is equivalent to more than 500 billion worldwide and already provides some perspective on the situation, but the most serious problem is represented by the tiny fragments or microplastics in the that end up decomposing and reaching the oceans to join the trophic chain, first in marine species and, later, in humans. Today, there are around 51 trillion of these types of particles in the seas and oceans and in the first two decades of the 21st century “half of all the plastic produced in the history of humanity has been manufactured”, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

    Plastic bags emerged as a cheap and, paradoxically, ecological alternative, in the 1950s of the 20th century and, as we know them today, were designed by the Swedish engineer StenGustafThulin who created a single-piece polyethylene bag for a Swedish packaging company, Celloplast, which patented the invention in 1965. Thulin’s intention was for each bag to be reused for a long time, but Anglo-Saxon ultra-capitalist logic imposed the philosophy of using and throwing away, which ended up generating the current problem of waste. “At that time, barely 2 million tons of this material were manufactured in the world, which, designed to last hundreds of years, could have continued to be a sustainable solution since it is wonderful: mouldable, resistant, durable, light and cheap” said journalist and activist Ana de Santos Gilsanz.

    Not demonize plastic itself

    For this reason, “we must not demonize plastic itself, but rather rethink the use we make of it” since, De Santos stressed, “we are using a practically indestructible material to manufacture objects with a useful life of a few minutes”. In fact, in barely 12 minutes, specified Julio Barea, head of Consumption and Biodiversity campaigns for the environmental organization Greenpeace, who indicated that “between the time you buy it, take it home and stop needing it, its useful life is reduced to those few minutes’ followed by decades of degradation.

    This degradation “does not mean that it disintegrates, disappears or is biocomposted, but rather that it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that, in the end, contaminate the food chain, the waters, the land…”, he warned, and “we are not talking about 1 or 2 bags, but out of billions that are manufactured and thrown away every year in the world, which is outrageous”. That is why Barea is in favor of eliminating them directly, which he considers “would not be a great trauma, since our grandmothers never used plastic bags to do the shopping” and, given the reusable options available today, “in 2 weeks no one would think of going to the supermarket without their bag”.

    Reduction in waste consumption

    For Tomás Gómez Franco, professor of Economic Foundations and World Economy at the International University of Valencia (east), “The country is behind the rest of the countries in Europe” because on average it continues to generate “more than 120 tons of plastic daily”. “One thing that has not been said enough is that, by 2050, we have a mandate that involves changing our way of consumption, our way of production, to move towards a circular economy”, Gómez stressed. Although “any restrictive or tax measure makes people feel bad”, he suggested taking Ireland as an example, which guaranteed “a 90% reduction in waste consumption” thanks to the awareness of its population.

    Resonance Costa Rica
    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. Visit and subscribe at Resonance Costa Rica Youtube Channel
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