Bring Back Plastic
By: Anthony Zhang
Most plastic is used in food packaging for its lightness and its ability to preserve produce and meat. Due to its environmental toxicity, most countries such as the UK have banned the use of plastic. These countries have moved to more “eco-friendly” substitutes such as leaves and paper, but are they effective as plastic?
One material replaced with plastic is cardboard; however, cardboard is much heavier and causes more food damage, resulting in more waste. “In the end it often turns out to be more polluting to use cardboard wrapping than plastic, when the entire food production chain is taken into account,” says account manager at Citeo Romane Osadnik. Osadnik works with a non-profit company whose goal is to minimize the impact of packing materials. "As a result, the cost of packaging represents a higher proportion of the total price. This explains why it makes more economic sense to keep refillable packaging, be it in glass or plastic, in countries in the global South," says Nathan Dufour from Zero Waste Europe. However, these types of packaging are not easily accessible globally, making it difficult for some countries to get their hands on these.
Most countries have found ways to replace some plastic uses. In India, street vendors used banana leaves to replace plastic containers. After treating these leaves with UV, these cups and bowls can last up to 3 years. “This take on a traditional practice promotes a local sustainable solution and cultural heritage,” reports journalist Axelle Parriaux.
There are appropriate times to use plastic such as packaging food. For shopping and “single-use” items, we should look into more “non-toxic” materials such as cloth bags and leaves. In the clothing industry, cotton clothes are now made with 20% seaweed to decrease chemical requirements. However, you still need cotton into the mixture like our plastic in our society.