The production of plastics inevitably results in the problem of the disposal of the products produced from them (plastic waste): the polymeric components of plastics are on the one hand insoluble in water and on the other hand unable to pass through the cell membranes of microorganisms, i.e. an interaction with living organisms is not known with the exception of biodegradable plastics and the formation of microplastics. Although this has the advantage that polymers can be classified as harmless to health, a transformation in living nature cannot be completely ruled out.
Some non-biodegradable plastics are also released into the environment. Of the more than 200 million tons of plastics produced annually worldwide, according to various estimates six to 26 million tons end up in the oceans, 70% of which sink to the seabed. Europe and North America together account for less than 5% of this input. Several million tons of plastic waste drift in so-called garbage vortexes in the North Pacific and North Atlantic. Every year, this waste kills several hundred thousand higher sea creatures. Small plastic parts and microplastics enter the food chain of marine animals and cause animals with a full stomach to starve or suffer internal injuries. Animals often confuse plastic parts with their food and swallow them. Larger plastic parts such as tarpaulins, defective fishing nets or ropes injure marine animals. Plastic tarpaulins cover coral sticks, sponges or mussel banks and thus prevent their colonization. According to a UNEP study, the Pacific whirlpool contains up to 18,000 plastic parts per square kilometre of sea surface. One kilogram of plankton is replaced by six kilograms of plastic. The sizes of the whirlpools can hardly be specified because they are not sharply limited.
Concrete studies on the effects of microplastics on humans have not yet been carried out. Studies on polymers that are used as carriers for drugs have shown that particles in the nanometre range are absorbed into the bloodstream, but are also excreted again.
In 2012, the global recycling rate for plastic waste was only around 3%, with an annual global production of plastics of around 280 million tonnes. In 2018, one article in the NZZ mentioned a figure of 8%. Instead, much of the plastic waste generated is landfilled or incinerated, and an estimated 20 million tonnes of non-recycled plastic waste ends up in the oceans, where it poses an enormous environmental problem. In Germany and Switzerland, on the other hand, plastics are no longer deposited in landfills. In the EU, this goal is to be achieved by 2020. In Germany, the recycling rate in 2010 was 45 %, making Germany a pioneer in a European comparison. The remaining 55 % is thermally recycled (waste incineration). To support this project, the plastics industry has launched a campaign Zero Plastics to Landfill by 2020. In the meantime, there are also industrial companies that have specialised in the recycling of plastics.
Worldwide, around 380 million tons of plastic are currently consumed per year (as of 2017). On average, the production of plastics has grown by around 8.4% per year since 1950, 2.5 times as fast as the average gross domestic product.
Of course we cannot solve this problem, even if we would like to, but we can participate together in environmental protection by reusing our REBOTTLE deposit system. Reusable bottles are always looking for new customers without having to dispose of them. That's why we invented the first worldwide deposit system for containers in order to participate in environmental protection and to inspire other partners to use this system.
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