In the plastic debate, public concerns and action often focus on items such as plastic bags and coffee cups. While these are hugely important – especially as they are often the items disappearing down drains and suffocating wildlife – many other sources of plastic pervade our lives without us even realising. These sources are often called invisible plastic.
Household waste aside, there is one form of plastic that is often forgotten in the plastic-free movement: invisible plastic. Invisible plastic includes things such as household white goods, vehicles, textiles, electronics, and building products. These are not explicitly plastic – but there is a lot of plastic hidden inside them! These sources of invisible plastic are also not usually included in a country’s recycling statistics. This means that the percentage of plastic we actually recycle is far less than the amount of plastic we think we recycle, a figure which often focusses on packaging.
Invisible plastic items often end up in landfill because consumers don't know how to dispose of it responsibly. A study from the University of Exeter (UK) found that most of the plastic found in an average person’s home was in the form of invisible plastics. Only about 6% of the total household plastic came from plastic waste including packaging such as soft drinks and dairy products. This invisible plastic is also made with oil, therefore contributing to climate change, and is still disposed of at the end of its life. If not disposed of properly, it can degrade into microplastics that infiltrate the environment, and release chemicals as it does so. However, by omitting invisible plastics from recycling rates and from the public consciousness, we forget about the effects this plastic can have, which prevents us from improving recycling rates.
If we work together to put pressure on producers of invisible plastic items, we can bring attention to the problem and create change. We specialise in providing planet friendly foodservice and packaging items, to eliminate plastic waste and contribute to a circular economy. We have found a solution to the packaging problem. It is time to find a solution to the invisible plastic problem. We need more awareness around these invisible plastics. This involves making consumers aware of what forms the household white goods – such as air conditioners, clothes driers, kitchen stoves, and other major appliances – and putting pressure on the companies who make these items to not only attempt to reduce their plastic component, but also provide a viable end-of-life option. Too often consumers do not know how to dispose of their old appliances, and as a result they end up in landfill. We need building companies to be accountable for the materials they use in their work, and for the textile industry to implement environmentally friendly practices. Consumers and the general public need to increase the pressure on industries that use invisible plastics – because without pressure nothing will change.
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