Plastic waste - everything is not so bad, because a lot is recycled. This belief is at least deeply rooted in many people's minds. But is that true? How much waste do we actually produce and how much of it is really recycled? Let's get to the bottom of this:
Since 1950, we have produced around 8.3 billion tons of plastic worldwide, of which 6.3 billion are now plastic waste. However, only 9% of this was recycled, and most of these products are disposed of after a short period of reuse. A further 12% were incinerated, which means that toxic pollutants are released into the air. The rest - 79% - ended up in landfills or in the environment.
These are disturbing figures when you consider that a plastic bottle takes on average 450 years to decompose. Before that, however, the plastic disintegrates into microplastic, which can also pose high risks for animals and humans and can no longer be easily removed from the environment.
But which country produces most garbage? And how do they deal with it? is there a scapegoat or are all countries equally to blame?
It suggests that wealthier regions have better recycling facilities and therefore recycle the most. If you look at the European leader with a recycling rate of 30%, this assumption is confirmed. China also recycled 25%. However, more than 70% still end up on landfills, the environment or are incinerated - in the richest areas of the world!
If these regions are indeed as comparatively careful as assumed, where does all the plastic in the seas come from?
If these regions are comparatively careful with garbage - where does all the plastic in the seas come from?
For this calculation, further factors have to be considered, such as the size and population of the coastal sections, as well as the amount and handling of plastic. Although Europe and China recycle comparatively much, they also produce a lot of waste thanks to the enormous population density. Sooner or later, 75% of China's garbage ends up in the environment, which is 8.8 million tons per year. Of this, 3.5 million tons end up in the sea. This makes China the undisputed leader in terms of waste pollution. If all European countries are added together, Europe is in 18th place. Not a brilliant achievement either.
The good news is: The recycling rate is also rising and new technologies and alternatives to plastic are constantly being developed, such as water bottles made of algae, fruit nets made of compostable cellulose fibres or edible cutlery. In many countries, disposable plastic bags are banned or at least taxed. People from all over the world come together and take part in joint clean-up activities and dispose of vast amounts of plastic waste from nature.
The world is slowly waking up and the problem is being discussed more and more publicly. We want to be a part of the turnaround, make our contribution and therefore stand fully behind the motto: "avoid waste".
Kristof Balke (Hauptautor), Stefanie Schwarz, Jan Patzer