I used to live in Argentina because of my father’s work. The Glaciares Glacier I saw there left the greatest impression on me of all the World Heritage sites I have seen. Surrounded by glaciers on all sides, it was a sight I had never seen before, and I felt the mystery of the world. However, I heard that the seemingly endless glaciers are collapsing year by year due to global warming. When I was there, every minute I saw a lump of ice bigger than me falling from here and there. It was then that I started to think more deeply about environmental protection.
In our daily lives, we produce a lot of garbage. In 2016, 2 billion tons of trash was generated, which will double by 2050. In 2016, 2 billion tons of garbage was generated, and it is expected to double by 2050. Garbage is mainly disposed of by incineration, landfill, and recycling, but incineration generates substances that have adverse effects on the environment, and the garbage itself has a significant impact on the environment. Incineration of plastic in particular produces carbon dioxide. The increase in carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases, will accelerate global warming. Plastic is not a problem if it is properly collected and recycled. However, there are 250 million tons of plastic waste generated worldwide, and considering the current waste disposal methods, this could generate as much as 160 million tons of carbon dioxide. Considering the current waste disposal methods, it is estimated that as much as 160 million tons of carbon dioxide has been generated. Even in high-income countries, only one-third of plastic waste is recycled, and in low-income countries, only 4% is recycled. Therefore, in recent years, there has been a movement to improve the recycling rate of plastics and to reduce the use of plastics in the world. As a result, sustainable resources have been attracting attention.
What is sustainable? Sustainable” does not just mean recyclable, it also means that human activities can be sustained without having a negative impact on the natural environment. The reason why paper is now used for shopping bags and straws is because paper generates less carbon dioxide from production to consumption, and wood can be used without limits by planting trees. Today, paper is the mainstream material used for sustainable packaging, but in the future, the use of bioplastics will also increase. Biodegradable plastics, for example, can be broken down into carbon dioxide and water by microorganisms. However, it is necessary to create an environment where microorganisms can live, and it also generates carbon dioxide. In the future, we can expect to see the development of plastics that can be broken down in nature without human intervention, as well as plastics that emit less carbon dioxide during the entire process from manufacturing to disposal.
However, the current situation is such that we cannot completely eliminate plastic products because we do not yet have a sustainable environment. Therefore, it will be important to reuse the plastics that are currently in use, and how to efficiently create sustainable packaging using the recovered plastics. Until the Basel Convention was signed in 2006, developed countries were exporting poor quality, heavily contaminated plastics to China and developing countries. Since processing in their own countries is costly, they outsource it to developing countries. It is still being exported to Africa and other countries, but this reduces the garbage collection rate and the total amount that can be recycled. This is why we need to develop the ability to reuse dirty plastic in developed countries.
While it is important to create new products with better performance, it will be very important to make the existing plastics more sustainable. It is also important to reduce the amount of packaging and the total amount of plastic used for each package. I think it is also important to pay attention to details such as reducing the amount of packaging and the total amount used per package. I believe that if we all think about and act on the environment little by little, it will eventually lead to big results. It is my hope that a sustainable environment will be perfected and a beautiful world will be preserved.
Essay by: Moe Nishizawa
Arizona State University