The Science


True to its name, a single-use plastic is disposable plastic that’s designed to be used once then tossed or recycled. This includes everything from plastic water drink bottles and produce bags to disposable plastic razors and plastic ribbon — really any plastic item you use then immediately discard.

Take a plastic water bottle. Most bottles say they can be recycled — and based solely on their easily recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) composition, they could be. But nearly seven out of 10 bottles end up in landfills or tossed as litter.

Think banning all of this plastic is overkill? There are some very solid reasons why it makes sense. First, plastic in landfills just doesn’t go away. A plastic bag takes 10 to 20 years to degrade, while a plastic bottle takes almost 500 years. Soil and seawater didn’t lead to bag degradation. Instead, three of the four types of biodegradable bags were still sturdy enough to hold up to 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms) of groceries (as were the non-biodegradable bags). Those exposed to sun did break down — but that’s not necessarily positive either. The small particles from degradation can quickly spread through the environment — think air, ocean or the belly of hungry animals who mistake plastic fragments for food.

The era of bioplastics is upon us. New innovations and commercial opportunities in bioplastics promise to make significant progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Apparently, we can’t live without plastics. Since they are so useful and economically important, how can we produce and use plastics without polluting our natural environment?

One solution – bioplastics – is a genuine ‘win-win’ which can simultaneously tackle ocean pollution, agricultural waste, and climate change – and also provide new industries and employment in regions that need them.

While researchers are still analyzing the safety of repeated plastic reuse, experts recommend glass or metal to avoid potentially harmful chemicals. And according to Weldon, it’s time we adopt a reuse mindset — be it cotton produce bags, stainless steel straws or a full-on zero-waste.

The push to ban plastic took center stage in 2018 with massive promotions like the award-winning #StopSucking campaign, which featured stars and celebrities pledging to give up single-use plastic straws. Now countries and companies are saying no to plastics by the dozens, and consumers are following along with them.