We’re drowning in plastic trash. From the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, plastic is everywhere. Plastic is an incredibly versatile material that can have important uses, but our current use of plastic is very troubling for the planet. Because, unlike organic materials, plastic does not rot and degrade (or only very slowly) and so the mountains of rubbish continue to grow all over the world – the European Union alone produces more than 2.5 billion tons of waste annually.
Disposable items such as plastic bags, cups or packaging that are thrown away after only one use and end up in the garbage are particularly harmful. Because of this phenomenon, our current economy is also known as the “throwaway economy”. However, the negative consequences of our plastic consumption go far beyond littering: The production and consumption of plastics contribute to global warming, pollute air and water and can lead to poisoning in humans. What can we do about these alarming developments?
What is the EU doing against plastic pollution? The EU has recognised the plastic problem and is trying to take action against high plastic consumption with new laws. The most important building block is the circular economy action plan, which, together with the European Green Deal, aims to make the EU more sustainable. As the name suggests, the circular economy action plan aims to transform the European economy into a circular economy. What does that mean?
In a circular economy, existing materials and products should be reused, repaired, shared and recycled for as long as possible so that they have a significantly longer lifespan. For example, the EU passed a directive in 2019 that completely bans some single-use plastic items and restricts the use of other single-use products. Further laws are to follow in the coming years. Will that be enough to eliminate our plastic problem?
What can consumers do? In order for the circular economy action plan to be successful, consumers must also help on a daily basis. Environmental associations and the EU advise consumers to follow the motto “Reduce, reuse, recycle!”. This means that citizens should consciously buy fewer plastic products in their everyday shopping and should avoid using single-use plastic as much as possible. The products that you already have should be used several times if possible, maybe even converted, and if that is no longer possible, plastic products and packaging should not be thrown away, but recycled.
What can we do about plastic pollution? How should the EU and national governments proceed against plastic pollution? What do you do in your everyday life to reduce your plastic consumption? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!