A Group of Top environmental experts, spearheaded by the University of Nottingham, have warned that the current war on plastic is detracting from the bigger threats to the environment.
In an article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) Water, the 13 experts state that while plastic waste is an issue, its prominence in the general public’s concern for the war on plastic will be overshadowing greater dangers, for example, climate change and biodiversity loss.
The interdisciplinary team argue that a lot of the war on plastic relies on information that isn’t always representative of those environments which were sampled. The aversion to plastic connected with this could encourage the use of alternative materials with potentially higher harmful outcomes.
Concern for the environment and continues to be exploited politically, after capturing the attention of the planet, for example through the war on plastic emotive vision of wildlife captured in plastic waste and alarmist headlines. They say modest war on plastic political gestures like legislation banning cosmetic microplastics, taxing plastic bags, and fiscal incentives such as utilizing reusable containers, in addition to the marketing of products as ‘green’ for containing less plastic than alternatives, risks instilling a complacency in society involving other environmental problems that are less tangible as plastic pollution.
The article’s authors call on the media and others to ensure that the realities of plastic pollution are not misrepresented, particularly in the public dissemination of the issue, and urges government to minimize the ecological effect of over-consumption, yet inconvenient, through product design, truly circular waste-management, also considered rather than reactionary policy.
Dr Tom Stanton, a co-author who headed the work while at the University Of Nottingham’s School of Geography and Food, Water, Waste Research Group, stated:
“We are seeing unprecedented engagement with environmental issues, particularly plastic pollution, from the public and we believe this presents a once in a generation opportunity to promote other, potentially greater environmental issues.”
“This is a key moment in which to highlight and address areas such as ‘throw-away’ culture in society and overhaul waste management. However, if there is a continuation in prioritizing plastic, this opportunity will be missed – and at great cost to our environment.”
The article also emphasizes that plastics are not the only kind of polluting material originating from human action that pollutes the environment. Other examples include natural textile fibers such as wool and cotton, Spheroidal Carbonaceous Particles (remnants of fossil fuels), and brake-wear particles out of vehicles – all of which are found in various places, where they have adverse environmental effects. The authors note that these substances tend to be a lot more abundant than microplastics and some, such as glass, aluminum, paper, and organic fibers, are associated with ‘plastic alternatives’ which are marketed as alternatives to plastic contamination, but in fact side-step the hassle of changing the intake practices in the origin of the problem. The eco-toxicological affects of some of these materials are not as well known than vinyl and microplastic pollution, yet they could have significant consequences.
The authors conclude that a behavioral science strategy should be taken to assess society’s relationship with single-use items and throw-away culture, and also to overhaul waste mismanagement.
They state there is a clear desire to reevaluate the global plastic debris in the environment which shouldn’t be deterred, but positive action to minimize plastic contamination has to be well informed and should not exacerbate or overshadow different forms of environmental degradation associated with other materials.
The report says that alternatives will come from a greater attention on designing substances and products which may be recycled, that possess their end-of-life built in, which markets and facilities exist to recycle all plastic waste.