Back to blog

Plastic Waste: An Environmental and Social Crisis

If there had to be a winner of the pandemic, it would be the plastic industry. Plastic, and therefore plastic waste, has made a strong comeback since the beginning of 2020, rebranding itself as a protection agency to curve health anxieties.[1] According to early estimates from The Economist, the use of disposable products may have increased by 250-300%, solely in North America.[2] As flippant as it sounds, our consumption habits of these one-and-done products poison our planet, further fueling a massive threat to plants, animals, and humans, alike.

A look at the damage caused by this environmental and social crisis and the extensive transformation needed.

Ocean Pollution

The mass production of plastic in conjunction with a deficient waste management system is at the root of the impending crisis that endangers all living species. Every year, more than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans, creating islands of refuse like the North Pacific Garbage Patch. The continent of plastic stretches more than 1.6 million square kilometres, or twice the size of Texas. Akin to this garbage patch, another was found in the North Atlantic Ocean. Made up largely of single-use plastic (water bottles, straws, grocery bags, etc.), the main culprit of ocean pollution is a nightmare for marine animals, with more than 90% having already ingested plastic.

Ocean with a lot of plastic trash - plastic waste - ATTITUDE

The Impact on Human Life

Plastic waste doesn’t affect only wildlife; it impacts human life as well. While there are plenty of videos circulating on the internet of turtles with their nostrils clogged by straws, the same cannot be said about the dangers of plastic waste on human health. Over time, the plastic in the ocean is broken down by the waves and sunlight into small fragments called microplastics. These microplastics amass in soils, rivers, lakes, and all other aquatic habitats, and are then consumed by the fish. Once eaten by the fish, these microplastics move up the food chain to humans by process of bioaccumulation. A published research review from 2019 determined that at least 74,000 microplastic particles are ingested, per year, by an American person just by the simple acts of eating, drinking, and breathing.[3]

Fish in a plastic bag - plastic waste - ATTITUDEFurthermore, plastic waste is primarily flooding regions and communities that are not prepared to confront such problems. For example, when China halted the import of American and European waste in 2018, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia were affected instantly. Now bombarded under heaps of trash, the host lands notice their population suffering from various health problems associated with toxic gas emissions caused by the incineration of plastic. And when plastic waste isn’t shipped abroad, it’s often left residing in the most vulnerable communities.[4]

Waste Management Systems Failure

In Canada only 9% of plastic is recycled - plastic waste - ATTITUDE

To be fair, the existence of seven different types of plastic that must all be discarded differently can certainly make matters complicated. When plastic waste is poorly sorted, the chances of it being reused are low, at best. In addition, the cost to create new plastic is less expensive than recycled plastic. Not to mention, each time it is recycled, the quality decreases; making it more or less profitable for local recycling companies to keep recycled plastics in circulation.[5]

The Solution: Changing the Model of Consumption

If recycling isn’t the solution, what can be done to fight against plastic waste? At ATTITUDE, we believe that a model change is necessary. That is why, we ourselves, have begun to transition to a circular model of consumption that relies on plastic-free, refillable, and reusable packaging. Understanding that packaging materials make up nearly half of all plastic waste in the world – most of which is never recycled or incinerated – we are innovating to devise solutions that help eradicate single-use plastic.

Body soap Leaves bar - plastic waste - ATTITUDE

All our bottles are made from #2 HDPE plastic. These recyclable, opaque, waterproof and impact-resistant bottles are also reusable. Our sturdy bottles of cleaner, dish soap, hand soap, detergent and more can be reused multiple times using our various eco-refills. They contain up to four times more product, but 80% less plastic than their counterpart in bottles.

Correspondingly, our entire new line of leaves bar™ hair and body care bars are carefully packaged in recyclable, plastic-free cardboard, taking care of you and the planet.

Would you like to know more about plastic waste? Read our articles on the genesis of the crisis and keep an eye out for more concrete solutions that will help you reduce your consumption of single-use plastic.

All purpose cleaner - Éco-refill - plastic waste - ATTITUDE

Sources

[1] https://ici.radio-canada.ca/ohdio/premiere/emissions/boulevard-du-pacifique/segments/entrevue/195003/covid-hausse-consommation-plastique (French audio)

[2] https://ici.radio-canada.ca/ohdio/premiere/emissions/moteur-de-recherche/segments/chronique/339952/plastique-usage-unique-environnement-pollution-pandemie (French audio)

[3] Environmental Science & Technology : https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517 (2019)

[4]  https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/21792/plastic-waste-environmental-justice/

[5]  https://www.cbc.ca/radio/sunday/the-sunday-edition-for-april-21-2019-1.5099057/why-your-recycling-may-not-actually-get-recycled-1.5099103