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Since the groundbreaking success story of plastic really got rolling at the beginning of the 20th century, plastic has become an integral part of our everyday lives. The versatile polymers seem to be found in all areas of life, from food packaging to clothing to car interior trim, not to mention industrial uses.
The word "plastic" is actually a colloquial term for plastic. It has a very low density compared to metals, the resulting low weight is one of the biggest advantages in the industry. Depending on the type of polymer contained in the plastic, there are properties such as deformability, elasticity, low processing temperatures and low electrical conductivity.
Plastic's bad reputation has less to do with the plastic itself and more to do with mishandling it.
With the establishment of plastic over the years, a convenience has developed in many industrialized nations that some would also describe as a throwaway society. Few think about it when they buy plastic products. It is precisely this thoughtlessness that is now dooming the planet.
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Scattered across the Earth's oceans are plastic garbage patches that have formed over time from waste. The largest is in the North Atlantic and occupies an estimated area of 15,000,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Europe. Aside from the pollution, many sea creatures and birds perish as well, mistaking the garbage for food and then dying, usually from intestinal obstruction or suffocation.
But we have come a long way in recent years. Germany ranks first with 65% recycling, while many countries around the world have poor or no recycling system. Most of the garbage is incinerated, releasing harmful gases, or ends up in huge landfills. In some parts of the world, the job of garbage collector is a completely normal job, which is also carried out by children. Nevertheless, it must be said that at least most countries are trying to improve the situation.
In addition to the plastic that we can see and touch, there is a possibly more dangerous variant. The microplastic. As the name suggests, these are tiny particles that are not visible to the naked eye, and are mostly the residue of decomposing plastic waste.
Due to its small size, microplastics can spread everywhere: in the air, in the water, in the earth. Once in the groundwater, it also finds its way into the fields, into our food and into our bodies. It can also be found in packaging and cosmetics.
How harmful microplastics are to our health cannot yet be said with certainty, but the same rule applies here as for normal plastic: less is better.
Is plastic inherently bad?
Plastic packaging has many advantages, otherwise it wouldn't be so popular after all. Above all, they are light and easier to manufacture and process than natural materials. In addition, in many industries it is important to throw away material for hygienic reasons.
( "Disposable in the Gastro" )
The plastic image has been deteriorating for years. From being a flexible all-round talent, things gradually went in the direction of the hated environmental sin.
In order to curb the plastic flood in Germany, the government has started to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic products in baby steps. Plastic straws are now banned, and many supermarkets only have bags made of paper or fabric. That's a good step ( "ban on plastic" ), but unfortunately it's not enough on its own. But a common problem of the human species is that it likes to rest on its laurels. As if getting rid of plastic bags was enough for the environment and now that's the end of it.
Nobody feels responsible. That's the next problem. It doesn't matter whether it's governments on a large scale, or each individual going to the supermarket. But the mentality is changing, away from the "because of me-nothing-changes-anyway" opinion and towards "every step counts". Environmental awareness is all the rage (fortunately). Not only individuals now want to live more sustainably, the attitude is slowly rubbing off on companies as well.
Hotels and gastronomy in particular would do well to jump on the moving train, because fast and cheap is out, influencers on all conceivable platforms propagate a conscious approach to the environment. Budget hotels, cruises and fast food may not have disappeared from the scene, but when in doubt, many tourists and holidaymakers choose the greener option.
Is there sustainable single-use packaging?
Plastic itself is not very environmentally friendly as it takes up to 500 years to decompose. If it has to be, it is best to use recycled material and reuse the packaging if possible.
Paper and cardboard are alternatives, although the major disadvantage is their lack of resistance to moisture.
Edible tableware, for example, represents a different approach. Cutlery, plates, drinking straws... everything can be eaten after use and if not, it is still biodegradable ( "edible crockery" )
It makes sense to bring your own containers, especially in the catering and snack industry, where thousands of disposable packaging are used every day. But there are also restaurateurs, snack bar operators and grocers who are slowly switching to biodegradable materials to counteract the ever-growing flood of plastic. The system is still in its infancy, but the right approach is there.
If you take some time and read up on the topic, you will find that sustainability does not have to be complicated or expensive. It's usually the little things, which hardly ever go wrong individually, but if everyone contributes a little, a lot can be achieved. A tidal wave basically consists of individual drops.
In addition, more mindfulness of the earth also leads to more mindfulness of yourself. Those who no longer shop randomly but consciously usually eat more healthily, including a good conscience.
[Sources: sinplastic , europarl , quarks