It is impossible to imagine our daily live without plastics and the number of applications steadily increases, but at the same time plastic waste already jeopardizes our environment and the Oceans with alarming proportions.
In the EU waste directives aim at avoiding waste and support re-use and recycling, but for plastic waste the incineration with energy recovery becomes increasingly the method of choice, when 2/3 of the European plastic demand is concentrated on only 5 member states (Germany, Italy, France, UK and Spain)9).
Plastic producers regularly report on increasing recycling rates, but only half of the plastic consumed is collected again as waste and thereof only 1/3 is recycled. There exists only one EU Directive with a very low recycling quota for plastics and Germany equated the incineration with recycling via a so-called “heating value clause”.
New directions like REACH and RoHs will improve the protection of consumers and environment but may also have the potential to stimulate recycling SMEs to send even larger volumes to incineration plants.
Valuable waste streams (e.g. WEEE) already became attractive for illegal business models and more than 2/3 is already lost.
Recycling rates of public authorities are often distorted and multiple counting causes higher recycling and/or recovery quotas.
Without new plastic recycling technologies, recycling will be limited to “pure” plastic waste collection streams (e.g. PET bottles, EPS packaging) and the rest will end up as heating fuel in incinerators.
All resources on earth are limited and major companies control energy, water and waste. The ongoing concentration in these markets is powered by guaranteed profit margins to be gained due to the dependence of countries, citizens and governments on these resources.
The oil price does not reflect the value of this finite resource but is used as a political instrument.
In the EU plastic waste is primarily regarded as substitute fuel and existing waste incineration over-capacities and their further expansion reduce available material for recyclers.
Without binding plastic recycling quotas there will be no progress in this industry and it will continue to follow the rules of the “Tragedy of the Commons”.
... or “The last one out cleans up Earth!”
Every year it is reported that plastic waste pollutes our environment. The dimensions steadily increase and hazardous substances like brominated flame retardants are now a firm component of our daily food.
We have decided to no longer updated this article, because the majority of our society is obviously not of the opinion that this is of interest or worrying.The effort would be big, it would be difficult to keep up with horrific news and would only create sadness.
But there is one law of nature we cannot escape: “Who does not adapt, will die out”:
That applies also for a “Free Market Economy”:
“Through me is the way among the lost people”
Inscription on the Gate to the Hell in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’
When first contemplating this subject, the picture of a tiny robot spontaneously came to mind: standing on a huge mountain of plastic waste, it had been constructed for the autonomous sorting of waste at a collection centre. Although its designers are long since dead (the planet has since become so polluted and overrun by un-recycled waste, that it can no longer support life), the solar-powered robot continues with its (in the meantime) irrelevant task.
Thus it was with bitter irony that we discovered, a couple of weeks later, that this scenario had already been adapted by Walt Disney for its latest animated family movie ‘WALL-E’, which will run in theatres as from October 20081). Maybe this film will help prepare our children for the future they will face, and perhaps, using the plastic robots from the film’s merchandising campaign, and the waste packaging they find at home, they can re-enact the scene.