In the middle of the 20th century, petroleum based plastic (PBP) was the solution for manufacturing cost reduction. Its introduction coincided with the rise of the post war consumer society.
Today, 10 billion tons later, this material of many virtues, has become a threat to the environment because of one of its advantages: durability. Although products manufactured with PBP are not necessarily long lasting, their components last decades in the environment. Even degraded into fine particles PBP remains harmful to the fauna especially those of the oceans.
People’s conversion to recycling has been dazzling over the last forty years. Today, nearly 100% of Canadian cities offer a recycling program which significantly reduces the pressure on the environment. Yet, despite the efforts, in December 2017 the UN decreed the oceans’ contamination by plastics a global crisis. One of the big culprits: packaging, mainly plastic bags and bottles. Even the infamous bottles of water that are turned into fleece textiles, as bragged by the manufacturers of this product, small fibers resulting from the process are found in the oceans with each laundering.
Petroleum, from which comes 99% of the plastics produced today (according to European Bioplastic, Nova Institutes 2016), is the result of organic materials subjected to centuries of transformation under geological plates. The ultimate origin, even if vegetal, curiously, does not classify as “organic” (in the ecological sens). Oil and derived products, including PBP, are non-renewable materials whose production leads to a high emission of harmful gases.
The good news is that thousands of years of oil production can be bypassed to produce plastics directly from plants, cellulose and / or starch. Fortunately, these so-called bio-based plastics (BBP) have the hughe advantage of being biodegradable, almost carbon neutral and therefore not harmful to the oceans.
BBS is therefore particularly relevant for packaging products or single-use products.
For those who insist on continuing to eat fish and other sea animals, the state will have to legislate to impose the use of BBP for packaging and single-use products. If the trend continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.