The production of disposable plastic products has accelerated over previous decades, which has led to one of the most challenging environmental issues the world has ever seen, plastic pollution. With the speed of production continuously growing, the world’s ability to dispose of plastic items has become increasingly more difficult, resulting in a large proportion of plastic discarded to landfill.
Since mass manufacturing of plastic items originated just after the Second World War, it has become an essential item to global society, with production trends increasing year on year. It is forecasted that global cumulative production of plastic items is set to rise from 9.2 billion tons to 34 billion tons by 2050.
The irresponsible disposal of plastic waste is at an all-time high, severely affecting the state of the planet’s lands and seas. Currently, plastic waste accounts for approximately 80% of global ocean pollution, with around 8-10 million metric tons filling the worlds ocean’s each year. The problem does not only exist in our ocean’s, it is also having harmful effects on wildlife, as well as contributing to the heightened threat of global warming through the release of harmful gases and toxins during production.
Recognising the serious threat plastic pollution has on the future well-being of our planet, governments across the globe have implemented legislation and regulations on the production, import, use, sale and disposal of single-use plastics in an attempt to tackle the issue before it is too late.
The UK is one of the pioneers of introducing legislation in the battle against plastic waste. From the 12 August 2022, Scotland’s ban on single use plastics was introduced, implementing market restrictions on specific plastic items such as cutlery, plates and food containers – some of the most popular items identified in landfill. The Environmental Protection Regulations came into action in England from July 2021, which was introduced to reduce the supply of items such as straws and drink stirrers. Furthermore, Wales announced earlier this year that they look to introduce a ban on single-use plastic carrier bags, making them the first country in the UK to introduce such groundbreaking progress in tackling plastic waste.
Outside of the UK, India introduced a ban on single use plastic products at the beginning of July this year. The Indian government introduced the new law in a bid to reduce the disposal of items with a high littering potential such as earbuds and plastic sticks. Australia have had a ban on single use plastic bags in place since 2018, which has since seen a consumption reduction of single use plastic bags by an impressive 2,600 tons. As more governments begin to administer bans on single use plastics, this will hopefully inspire other nations to follow suit.
Has Legislation on Single-Use Plastics Helped the Paper & Pulp Industry?
As Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi introduced the ban on various single use plastic items earlier this year, many experts believe this has created great opportunities for the Indian paper and pulp industry. As items such as plastic cups and straws have started to be phased out of Indian society, there has suddenly been an urgent need for sustainable alternatives. It is estimated that India consumes roughly 6 billion plastic straws per year, and what other alternative is more suited to fill the gap than paper straws?
Various sustainable paper solution companies are already developing new biodegradable food packaging alternatives to replace plastic packaging items, with many more organisations most likely not far behind. Buzz words such as ‘climate change’ and ‘net zero’ are beginning to move up the importance ladder for Governments around the world, and this shift in focus will be accompanied with more laws and regulations introduced on the usage of single use plastics. Moving forward, this will hopefully be advantageous for companies involved within the paper industry, playing a major role in the sustainable development of our planets future.