Plastics they rub shoulders with climate change as one of the great problems facing nature. Its microparticles have formed floating islands in the oceans and it is estimated that 90% of seabirds have fragments of plastic in the stomach. Particles that may be happening to people, according to a pilot study that has proven that the stools of people from various countries (United Kingdom, Italy, Russia or Japan) contained particles of a dozen plastics. It is estimated that each year 8 million tons of plastic are produced in the seas of all that is produced: last year they were 335 million tons.
In this context, 250 companies (many of them multinationals) that represent 20% of the production of plastic packaging in the world have committed to that in 2025 100% of these plastics are reusable, recyclable or convertible into compost. The one baptized as New Plastics Economy Global Commitment (Global Commitment to the New Economy of Plasticss) seeks to create a circular economy by eliminating the unnecessary use of packaging and moving from the use and disposal products to a model in which reuse prevails.
Retail and universities
Among the companies signing the agreement, presented at the conference Our Ocean 2018 in Bali, are Danone, Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Inditex, Nestle, H & M, L'Oréal, Unilever or large producers of packaging and other plastics such as Amcor or Novamon . The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN and has been endorsed by the World Economic Forum and The Consumer Goods (an organization that represents some 400 retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries), along with 40 universities, institutions and academic
There are other NGOs like Greenpeace who distrust commitment. "We already have plastic in salt!" Exclaims Julio Barea, responsible for the waste campaign in Spain. The organization considers that the agreement signed between the big companies is insufficient to face a challenge that has become a global emergency: "It is surely a signal, but it is not even remotely a solution: recycling is not enough and we need a drastic reduction "
In Spain it is responsible for the recycling of domestic packaging (not including commercial and industrial) Ecoembes. The metal ones are the most recycled, with 86.9%; followed by paper and cardboard (81.1%); and, finally, of the plastic ones (69.7%). They also recycle other objects such as cutlery, plastic plates or straws. Together these residues account for 8% of all urban solids produced in Spain. "Last year they recovered eight out of ten bottles of water, soft drinks, oil ... But it is not the case of other packages such as yogurt cups, which have a lower percentage of recycling and on which we have to put more focus ", Explains Nieves Rey, Director of Communication and Marketing of Ecoembes.
The European Union has also declared war on plastic. After launching a strategy aimed at the bags, now works to prohibit other single-use items such as straws, plates and cutlery, cotton swabs and sticks to remove beverages. Last week, the plenary session of the European Parliament voted in favor of making these articles disappear from the market by 2021.
Cigarette filters are the easiest garbage to find on European coasts, according to data collected by the European Agency for the Environment and collected by volunteers during the cleaning of 1,627 beaches of four regional seas. It is followed by pieces of plastic, glass and ceramic, plastic cups, cotton swabs and bags. In 50 years the production of plastic has multiplied by 20, indicates the UN.
Bottles and cans
Recycling is the line that guides the strategies of the main multinationals. Coca-Cola, one of the companies that has signed the agreement, explains that it already has a plan in place to recover 100% of the bottles and cans that it will launch on the market by 2030. Currently, 59% of its containers are PET bottles, 12% is made of aluminum and steel and 8% in refillable glass. Danone, another of the brands involved in the project, states that 87% of its packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable, and that it plans to increase this percentage to 100% by 2025. Nestlé moves in the same direction: it wants All of its packaging is recyclable or reusable on the same date. His performance, explains the company, focuses on three areas: eliminate non-recyclable plastics, use those that allow better recycling rates and eliminate or change packaging materials.
Scientists have launched to study the problem generated by tons of plastic and its impact on health. Marinella Farré, from CSIC, develops a project that studies the situation in the Mediterranean. "It's about evaluating how this material reaches the ocean and degrades into microplastics [menos de cinco micras de diámetro] and in nanoplastics and check the impact they have on organisms (because there is a possibility that they reach the human trophic chain) and on ecosystems, "he explains. The project, in which they have been working for a year, also investigates the ability of these plastics to absorb other toxic pollutants present in the sea and act as vehicles, "as if they were a taxi, and thus reach people".
In the oceans there are hundreds of islands. But five of them are made of garbage, mainly of microplastics. Two are in the Pacific, another two in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean, according to Greenpeace. The organization warns that at the current rate, plastic production will quadruple by 2050. China is the main manufacturer, followed by Europe, North America and Asia. And only 9% of this waste ends up being recycled.
Governments, regional associations and international organizations have shouted in the sky and have started to study ways to prevent the planet from dying in plastic. Strategies to reduce the number of single-use items manufactured in this material consist of prohibiting or imposing taxes, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Africa, for example, is the continent where most countries have imposed a total ban on the use of plastic bags. In Asia, on the other hand, attempts have been made to fight against these articles by imposing taxes. And it's not a matter of today: some countries, like Bangladesh, vetoed them a decade ago. Despite this, the measure has not been very successful.
In Japan, on the other hand, the objective has been achieved without the need for a ban: thanks to effective waste management and high social awareness, contamination by plastic bags has been reduced.
Costa Rica is another success story. At least in part. As detailed in the UNEP study, this country can boast of its environmental successes: it managed to double its forest area in 30 years and plans a complete decarbonization by 2020. But it lacks in the management of solid waste: a fifth of them ends up contaminating rivers and Beaches. Therefore, the country wants to become the first in the world to prohibit single-use plastics by 2021. Its strategy to replace them will consist of biodegradable alternatives and the prohibition of both bags and cutlery or straws.
"It is already impossible to hide the garbage under the carpet," says the responsible of the campaign of waste in Spain of Greenpeace, Julio Barea, who gives an idea more in the case of packaging: return to a system of return and return. "Every day 50 million drink containers are introduced into the Spanish market and only 30 are recovered. You have to act", ditch.