Billions of metric tonnes of plastic have been produced, but 91% isn’t recycled

Going about our everyday lives, most of us use quite a lot of plastic — probably more than we even realise or think about.

Eat a bag of chips? Plastic. Drink a bottled soft drink? Plastic. Buy a new bottle of hand soap? Plastic.

And sure, we all know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle. But how much does that actually help, and what more can be done?

Only 9 per cent of plastics recycled

According to National Geographic, despite the mass production of plastics beginning only about six decades ago, it has quickly racked up enormous amounts of waste — 8.3 billion metric tonnes, in fact.

Unfortunately, the majority of this enormous amount of plastic ends up as trash.

Additionally, plastic takes more than 400 years to decompose, so most plastic waste still exists in the world, reported National Geographic.

In 2017, a study published in peer-reviewed journal Science Advances provided the first global analysis of all plastics that have ever been produced.

It found that 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been produced. Of this, 6.3 billion metric tonnes — or 76 per cent — has become plastic waste.

Only 9 per cent of plastic waste has been recycled. 12 per cent was incinerated, and the remaining 79 per cent has accumulated in landfills or in the natural environment. Much of this ends up accumulating in the oceans.

The scientists who conducted the study estimated that if current production and waste management trends continue as they have, the amount of plastic waste in landfills or the natural environment by 2050 could reach around 12 billion metric tonnes.

That is 35,000 times heavier than the Empire State Building, reported National Geographic.

Why so much plastic waste?

How is it possible that plastic waste is generated at such a magnitude?

National Geographic stated that plastic manufacturing has accelerated rapidly, doubling roughly every 15 years that has passed. This is faster than the manufacturing of all other man-made materials.

Plastic packaging accounts for more than 40 per cent of non-fiber plastic, and the increased use of plastic packaging has been the cause of much of the growth in plastic production.

Plastic is also different from most other materials, which tend to have longer lifespans. For example, half of all steel produced is used in construction, which can last decades.

For plastics, however, half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than one year.

One of the study’s authors — Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia — told National Geographic that getting control of plastic waste needs a comprehensive global approach comprising rethinking plastic chemistry, product design, recycling strategies, and consumer use.

The study’s lead author — Roland Geyer, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara — said:

“We as a society need to consider whether it’s worth trading off some convenience for a clean, healthy environment.

For some products that are very problematic in the environment, maybe we think about using different materials. Or phasing them out.”

What can we do?

Given how ever-present plastic is in our lives, it can seem like a pretty difficult task to completely stop using it.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to decrease our plastic usage by adopting small changes in our lifestyles.

Maybe, a place to start could be cutting down on plastic consumption in everyday products, or supporting corporations and companies that engage in sustainable business practices?

Davines solid shampoo bars

An Italian family-owned company, Davines, recently introduced solid shampoo bar versions of their Essential Haircare line, in conjunction with World Ocean Day on Jun. 8.

The B-corporation certified company brands themselves as being dedicated to sustainable beauty products.

The solid shampoo bars are packaged in 100 per cent FSC paper, which means that it was harvested in a responsible manner. The packaging, which doubles as an explanatory leaflet, is completely recyclable.

The bars include active ingredients sourced from Slow Food Presidia, which are obtained through a natural technique of bio-maceration of sunflower oil. This is a more sustainable alternative compared to traditional chemical solvents.

The formulas of the shampoo bars are dermatologically tested and free of preservatives, silicon or sulphate.

According to Davines, the soaps also have a “low impact on the water environment”, as they are 97.4 per cent biodegradable.

The shampoo bar is also described to have a “rich and creamy foam”, which gives “softness and workability” to the hair.

In addition, Davines offsets all carbon dioxide generated from the manufacturing of the shampoo, including its transport and disposal, through the EthioTrees reforestation project, which aims to regenerate soil and forests to support local communities in northern Ethiopia.

Davines’ products are only available for purchase in Singapore through their partner hair salons. To find out more about the shampoo bars and discover Davines’ selection of sustainable beauty products, visit:

No.8 Hair Studio

Yann Beyrie Salon

Shun Sakurai Hair

Sozon Hair Studio

W Saloon

Zig Plus Zag Hair

Bedebon

HairArt Studio

Kim Robinson

Manemade Studio

Protrim Hair

Become an Ocean Keeper Campaign

Also in conjunction with World Ocean Day, Davines launched the Become an Ocean Keeper campaign, which aims to raise awareness among its salons and consumers on the importance of respecting and caring for our oceans to protect our future. This year’s theme, #LoveforOcean #LoveforEarth, explores the topic of blue carbon and how it helps mitigate the effect of climate change.

Learn more about the campaign, and the initiatives within it, here.

This sponsored article by Davines made the author think more about her plastic usage.

Top image by Antoine GIRET on Unsplash.