The topic of single-use plastics has been muttered about for years, but has garnered more attention recently. In fact, ‘single-use’ was the 2018 Word of the Year, according to Collins Dictionary, which is indicative of the rise in public concern over plastic waste and general pollution.
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In the current day in England, you cannot receive a beverage in a restaurant or bar and it be accompanied by a plastic straw; and as of 3 July 2021, drinks products cannot be supplied with single-use plastic straws attached to the packaging. Cross the ocean to the US, and the situation is very different as it depends on which part of the country you are in and the rules in place there. Often, plastic straws can be requested by a patron. But with research finding that Americans are using, on average, 500 million single-use straws every day, it is a mentality that will take time (and regulation) to influence.
It is not just the role of governments and policy makers that can introduce change, it is major corporations too. I vividly recall being in India in 2012 and purchasing several plastic bottles of water – since the safety and cleanliness of tap water in the country is questionable, we could only have packaged drinks. These bottles were iconic because firstly, they had eye-catching neon pink lids and wraps, with powerful messages inscribed on the side, and secondly because I couldn’t believe Tata Steel was the manufacturer behind this bottled water. Tata Steel the steelmaking company – where the steel making process has multiple detrimental environmental impacts. Years have passed, and Tata Steel has recently begun a Quit Plastic Campaign, having taken note of the growing plastic pollution problem, and observing that only 10 - 13% of plastic items are recycled worldwide.
No longer are plastic bottles being manufactured by the company, and thus less waste is meeting landfills.
On a similar note, to carry a reusable bottle at all times is becoming commonplace in many nations and encouraged in businesses. However, an interesting new creation that has increasingly been replacing plastic water bottles on supermarket shelves is canned water. Aluminium cans are fully recyclable, not to mention that recycling aluminium is one of the cheapest and most efficient materials to recycle, so again we reduce our landfill contributions.
Whilst it is true that our household waste is collected like clockwork each fortnight and delivered to extensive landfills, and Peel NRE’s article (p.24) acknowledges that some products may always have a finite life – which has become particularly prevalent during COVID-19 as PPE and single-use products flood our daily lives – the dramatic decline in landfill rates in Europe since 2001 is evident to see. Thermal waste treatment has the ability to not only reduce landfills but also produce energy that will substitute the use of fossil fuels.
To read expert knowledge on the topics of waste disposal, recycling, and waste-to-energy, this issue has a series of articles to indulge in, starting with the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants’ piece on p.8 which details the role waste-to-energy can play in improving Europe’s green objectives.
This issue of Energy Global magazine is not all about trash, waste, and unwanted products, it is also packed full of other technical articles covering all manner of renewable energies, including the road to green hydrogen, technological innovations for geothermal across the world, the development of solar power, plus many more.
There is much to absorb from this Energy Global issue, and we hope you are able to acquire some new information on the evolving renewables industry.