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Biodegradable plastics fail to solve pollution crisis

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China
Millions of tons of plastic waste are generated globally every year. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

CHINA: A new report released by the charity Greenpeace shows that China’s production of biodegradable plastics has increased substantially beyond the country’s ability to degrade plastics.

China, the world’s largest producer of plastic waste. They introduced a ban on several types of non-degradable single-use plastics earlier this year. China prompting manufacturers to accelerate the production of biodegradable plastics.

According to Greenpeace, 36 companies in China plan or build new biodegradable plastic production facilities. It increases their annual production capacity by more than 4.4 million tons. It is an increase of more than 7 times in less than 12 months.

Other than that, the charity said that by 2025, after China’s single-use plastic ban takes effect nationwide, China’s e-commerce industry is expected to generate about 5 million tons of biodegradable plastic waste each year.

An elderly male migrant worker carries a large bag of plastic bottles he had collected at the Dalian Jinzhou garbage dump.

An elderly male migrant worker carried a large bag of plastic bottles he had collected at the Dalian Jinzhou garbage dump. Photo: GETTYIMAGES

Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the importance of reducing plastic waste in a recent speech. However, many major cities in China have little or no infrastructure to cope with the expansion of biodegradable plastic production.

Plastic problem

Moreover, one of the main challenges facing biodegradable plastics globally is that they cannot be placed in ordinary household recycling or degraded in household compost bins. It means that consumers have almost no way to use biodegradable packaging for processing them. Various industrial facilities.

“Unless there is clear infrastructure for what we call ‘end-of-life’ – whether that’s recycling or incineration or landfill or biodegradation in some way – then that is still a single-use plastic.”

Grantham University of Sheffield Sustainable Director of the Future Center.

“Just because a plastic is biodegradable, that doesn’t mean it is not single use.”

A university students passes a poster for banning plastic bags in Haikou, Hainan province, China, on November 30, 2020.

In 2017, China banned imports of plastic waste from other countries. Photo: GETTYIMAGES

Another type of plastic (often called “bioplastics”) made entirely or partially from biological resources is not necessarily biodegradable. It creates potential confusion for consumers.

On a global scale, the industrial infrastructure required to process biodegradable plastics from collection to high-temperature composting does not have the scale to match the amount of plastic produced.

Dr. Rothman said: “This is a global problem, absolutely.”

“The UK has been consulting on bio-degradable and compostable plastics and there’s a new standard on biodegradability. But when you look at the details, it says the material needs to get to 60 degrees Celsius, and what plastic is going to 60 degrees in the UK?”

Shipping off waste

A study published in the journal Science Advances in October evaluated the 2016 data. The study estimated that the United States was the world’s leading producer of plastic waste that year, followed by India and then China. Overall, EU countries will be ranked second, although India and China only account for about 40% of the population.

The United States ships large amounts of plastic waste to other countries. In 2017 alone, China imported 7 million tons of plastic waste from Europe, Japan and the United States.

Since then, China has banned the import of 24 different grades of waste, but some other countries. As such Malaysia, Turkey, the Philippines and Indonesia. China have had to deal with their large amounts of plastic waste. These countries have already reduced it.

Furthermore, some of these countries have returned some imported plastic waste.

A report issued by Greenpeace on Thursday warned that replacing single-use plastics with mass-produced biodegradable alternatives is not a solution to the problem of plastic waste.

Dr. Jia said: “This ‘biodegradables rush’ has to stop. We need to take a cautious look at the effect and potential risks of mainstreaming these materials, and make sure we invest in solutions that actually reduce plastic waste.”

She said: “Reusable packaging systems and a reduction in overall plastic use are much more promising strategies to keep plastic out of landfills and the environment.”

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China biodegradable plastics ‘failing to solve pollution crisis’

 

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