Home Sciences One day in a future without plastic

One day in a future without plastic

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Imagine the scene. It is any given day in the year 2030. Walk into a supermarket. At first glance, everything looks exactly the same as it did in the 1920s. But if you look closely, something has changed. In the fruit and vegetable area, for example, there are no longer apples wrapped in cellophane layers and placed in polypropylene trays. There is also no trace of the plastic straws Or the disposable cutlery. There is coffee, of course, but it is no longer sold wrapped in aluminum capsules but in biodegradable packaging. In the corridors there are now sections dedicated to the sale of bulk products. Everything is the same and, in turn, everything is different. At least that is the goal to which the new legislative proposals that will take off in the coming years to try to put an end to the avalanche of plastic waste that has flooded the planet for decades.

At the end of March, the Congress of Deputies definitively approved the new waste law in Spain; a regulation that deploys a battery of measures to reduce the use of single-use plastics. From the explicit prohibition to sell disposable products of this material (such as straws, cotton swabs, plates and cutlery) until the application of a new tax focused specifically on non-reusable plastic containers. Along with this regulation, Moncloa sources anticipate that a new royal decree focused only on packaging.

Catalonia, for its part, is preparing a regulation, called the Llei de Prevenció i Gestió dels Residuos i d’Ús Eficient dels Recursos, which includes similar measures, from the persecution of unnecessary food packaging to the end of single-use plastic bags use, passing through the veto on cosmetic products containing microplastics. The Balearic Islands took the step a little earlier. Its waste law, in force since the beginning of last year, contemplates restrictions on coffee capsules: On the islands, in theory, only those that are compostable or easily recyclable can be sold.

Spain has come a long way in this field in recent years. Their waste recycling rate In general, it is still lagging behind the European average, but not in plastics. According to data from Eurostat, the community statistics office, the country reused in 2019 (there is no more up-to-date data) the 51.5% of packaging waste of this material, only below Lithuania (69.6%), the Czech Republic (61.0%), Bulgaria (59.3%), the Netherlands (57.2%), Sweden (53.2%) and Slovakia (52.8%). But just as or more relevant is the trend: in 2010, the Spanish rate in this area was only 29.2%.

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On paper, the ‘war on plastic’ is clear. More after the approval of the first international agreement against plastic agreed last March by the United Nations General Assembly in which 175 countries, including Spain, They have committed to drawing up plans to reduce the ecological impact of this material throughout its life cycle. The most optimistic define this declaration as “the most important global commitment since the Paris Agreement”. The most skeptical, on the other hand, remember that before declaring victory, it will be necessary to see how all these promises translate into reality.

A pioneer couple

“The big problem with plastic is that, as a society, we are so used to it that it has become something normal use a disposable teaspoon for thirty seconds and just after throwing it away, where it will take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade”, they explain Patricia Reina Toresano Y Fernando Gomez Soria, two activists who have been living without plastics for more than seven years and narrating their experiences at ‘vivirsinplastico.com’. “There are those who think that giving up plastic is a setback, when the real failure is to fill bags and bags of garbage with plastics that have only been used once. Or see that the supermarket shelves are full of products wrapped, unnecessarily, in several layers of plastic“, they comment.

“We’ve made it normal to use a disposable spoon for thirty seconds and then throw it in the trash right after.”

Patricia Reina Toresano and Fernando Gomez Soria

Spain produces about 1.6 million tons of plastics per year. The equivalent to 34 kilos per year per person, points out the analysis ‘The plastic waste makers index’, by the Minderoo foundation. The vast majority is used for produce single-use products (as is the case, for example, of disposable packaging). According to a recent Greenpeace report, at least 50% of plastic waste generated in Spain are not recycled properly and end up in landfills. A part of these, in turn, end up dragged to the Mediterranean. In this sea, which only represents 1% of the planet’s water, more than 230,000 tons of plastic per yearcalculates a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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throwaway culture

“We have to get rid of the ‘throwaway’ culture and bet on a more sustainable consumption model. There is no need to give up anything, nor radically change our lifestyle. We just have to be more aware of what and how we buy,” argue Reina and Gómez. In their case, they explain, in 2015 they began the “personal challenge” of reducing their consumption of plastic. Initially, since find alternatives to this material It was complicated, the couple was dedicated to ‘manufacturing’ homemade substitutes for toothpaste and cleaning products. But in recent years, thanks to the ‘boom’ of ‘ecofriendly’ products, it is becoming easier to find sustainable alternatives and plastic free.

‘Living without plastic’, explain the ‘zero waste’ activists, begins with gestures as simple as shopping with a reusable bag. Buy the same, but in bulk (an option that for now is only limited to a handful of specialized stores but that, in the future, will also be incorporated into large supermarkets). choose the products that generate less waste, such as reusable or compostable coffee capsules. Swap out pads and tampons for more durable items, like menstrual cups. or bet on ‘new generation’ items such as, for example, cleaning products that are sold in strips of paper and that are diluted in water.

“We need a real change. Do not change bottled water for water in tetrabricks”

we need real change. Do not change bottled water for water in tetrabricks. Or plastic straws for cardboard straws wrapped in a plastic layer”, illustrates Reina. “The plastic crisis is ‘the elephant in the room‘. We see it all, we know it’s a problem, and yet for decades we’ve chosen to ignore it. To end this problem we need real and ambitious measuresnot patches”, ditch Gómez.

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