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Are Single-Use Plastic Bans the Best Option?

By: Anna Chuang

Banning plastic use everywhere seems like the best way to face our environmental plastic pollution problem. Plastic is the world's most wasteful material, but it is so useful for so many things. Is banning plastic really the best option? Or is there another way to approach this problem without banning our most useful material?

Every year, an estimated 380 million tons of plastic is produced. It is predicted to increase by 70 percent by 2050, with the human population increasing.

Plastic can be used for so many things. It is the material that most companies are using for packaging food. Plastic is cheap, light, flexible, and durable. If all of these plastics were recycled, then there would never have been such a big plastic waste problem. The problem is that barely any of the plastic waste is recycled. According to BBC Culture, “15 percent of plastics go to recycling, but 40 percent of this waste is rejected for contamination or other issues, meaning only 9 percent of plastic waste is actually recycled.”

But if we were to replace plastic with another material, would that material really be better? Would it make a big difference? For example, many places around the world are exchanging plastic straws for paper straws. But paper straws get very flimsy after a few seconds since they aren’t as strong as plastic straws. Furthermore, if we exchange plastic food packaging for another material like cardboard, that won’t necessarily be a better option. Cardboard or paper packaging is actually worse than plastic packaging since it has more volume and is heavier.

Since it is heavier, the same amount of food has to be transported by more trucks. This shows how much better plastic actually is compared to other materials.

So, plastic isn’t the pure villain in this world-wide problem that we think it is. If we recycled 100 percent of the plastic we consumed, we wouldn’t be stuck with this plastic pollution problem right now? Instead of banning our favorite everyday material, we should reuse plastic better, and slowly rise that percentage of recycled plastic. Then, we can slowly take a big step forward to solving this huge environment problem.

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