Life is plastic, it’s fantastic — except that it’s not. Plastic pollution has become a massive threat to humanity and the environment. Statistics show that global plastic production reached almost 400 million metric tons in 2021. And while plastic products have an average lifespan of 10 years, did you know plastics (depending on their composition and disposal) take up to 500 years to decompose?
With odds like that stacked up against us, you can imagine why there’s a desperate call for banning single-use plastics because of how it contributes to waste. Landfills grow daily, but there's a solution: knowledge. With it, better choices and sustainable living become possible. Understanding phenomena like the effects of microplastics and types of plastic pollution is just the beginning of playing your part in the war on plastic.
Types of Plastics that Cause Plastic Pollution
Multiple types of plastics end up as waste, and all of them are harmful. However, knowing their characteristics and where they come from helps us approach waste management cautiously and be more mindful of our littering habits. So, let’s learn more about the types of plastics and the pollution that are silently killing our beloved world:
As the name suggests, single-use plastics refer to any plastic items meant for one-time use only, and they’re everywhere. From takeaway cups and plastic lids to straws and fast-food containers, these plastics end up in the ocean, impacting marine life and humans.
Did you know humans use about 1.2 million plastic bottles per minute? And approximately 91% of it does not get recycled. Unfortunately, many countries lack the infrastructure to prevent plastic pollution, such as sanitary landfills, incineration facilities, etc.
When plastic degrades, it breaks down into smaller particles — microplastics, smaller than 5 millimetres and almost invisible to the naked eye. There are typically two types of microplastics, namely primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are plastic pieces like nurdles and cosmetic microbeads, while secondary ones are the degradation of larger plastic objects like paint flakes, fibres and fragments.
Because of their tiny sizes, the effects of microplastics could be deadly. Their bioavailability increases, potentially impacting thousands of other species. There are concerns about ingesting these toxic microplastics by accident and the pathogens and parasite vectors on them. It poses a colossal risk to ecosystems, aquatic life, and the lives of humans.
Smaller than microplastics, nanoplastics are smaller than 100 nanometres. These minute plastic pieces are small enough to come in contact with plants, humans, and animals on a cellular level. In other words, they could be in the air or the food we consume.
How do we identify an invisible foe? Thankfully there are ways. Nanoplastics come from large and single-use plastics, so not letting those break down will help prevent them from even forming. Besides that, using air filters designed to remove nanoparticles and heating plastic containers in microwaves helps reduce these various types of plastic pollution.
Plastic Solutions & Initiatives
With plastic pollution growing uncontrollably, it’s time for large corporations, governing bodies, and nations to step in, which they have.
Here are some of the waste-management methods that have been implemented on a global scale:
Burning organic materials such as plastics, food waste, and paper to generate electricity.
Heating waste in a low-oxygen environment produces gas that turns into fuel in combustion engines or burns to generate electricity.
Creating methane and carbon dioxide from microorganisms that break down organic waste. The methane can be burned to generate electricity, while the carbon dioxide is suitable for other industrial processes.
Heating waste without oxygen, resulting in a synthetic gas — used to generate electricity or used as fuel for other purposes.
Legislative Action on Plastic Pollution
In an attempt to end microplastics and nanoplastics, 175 nations have agreed to develop a legally-binding agreement on plastic pollution by 2024. This historic resolution will leverage a wide range of approaches, sustainable alternatives, and technologies to address the entire lifecycle of plastics. Beyond that, it’s also about promoting sustainable production and embracing a circular economy approach. The agreement named End plastic pollution: towards an International legally binding instrument outlines the intergovernmental committee’s comprehensive approach to ending plastic pollution through national action plans.
When it comes to national regulations, there are several countries we can look to understand how they tackle plastic pollution and marine litter. There’s The London Protocol (LP), a core instrument handling the dumping of wastes and other matter at sea. The goal of the Protocol is to stop dumping at sea. On land, we can learn from plastic restriction policies and compulsory garbage sorting policies implemented by Taiwan. Within three years of both policies being enacted, plastic carrier bags were reduced by 58 and 68% respectively, with more shoppers carrying their own shopping bags — a behaviour worth commending.
How You Can Play Your Part
Playing a part in making our planet a greener place to live in is surprisingly simple. There are 3 ways anybody can bring about environmental change:
- Knowledge is essential for bringing about change
- Focus on education, awareness campaigns, and staying informed about plastic pollution.
- Utilise resources from organisations like the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) or Greenpeace.
- Take actionable steps to put knowledge into practice
- Adopt a BYO mindset: bring your own containers, bottles, recycle bags, and utensils.
- Buy secondhand items to avoid additional landfill waste.
- Consider using metal or stainless steel cookware instead of non-stick options.
- Choose dine-in or self-pickup options instead of delivery.
- Engage in community initiatives and activism
- Join movements such as Plastic Free July, Earth Day, and World Environment Day.
- Participate in social media challenges and take pledges.
- Connect with like-minded individuals who care about the environment.
By implementing these ideas, you can actively contribute to the cause and make a positive impact for Mother Nature.
SodaStream’s Plastic Pollution Pledge
At SodaStream, we believe in banding with global authorities to play our part in reducing waste. Our pledge is to save up to 67 billion single-use plastic bottles from our planet by 2025. We carry this belief in everything we do, especially our product designs, like the CO2 cylinders. Each SodaStream CO2 cylinder is designed with sustainability in mind. They are recycled, producing approximately 60 litres of sparkling water, saving the environment from 180 single-use plastic bottles.
We also have a selection of carbonating bottles that replace 2000 single-use plastic bottles for a family each year. Each one carries the fizzy goodness of sparkling water for as long as three years (or until the expiration date printed on the bottle), whichever comes first. Our SodaStreamers know how delightful it is to drink sparkling water daily, knowing they are choosing a healthier and more sustainable choice for their life and the earth. We hope you will experience the same.
Experience SodaStream for Yourself
If you’re the kind that craves sodas but have to give them up because of health concerns — it doesn’t have to be that way. You can enjoy the goodness of a fizzy soda without harmful sugars and no compromise on taste. SodaStream offers a selection of stunning sparkling water makers and CO2 cylinders that carbonate your drinks. You'll get your bubbles without any batteries or clunky wires.
Having built a history of trust and longevity since 1903, we’re sparkling water specialists who pride ourselves as frontrunners in sustainability and waste management. SodaStream leads the world in using minimal plastics, and we hope you will join us in this journey — by reducing landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while enjoying carbonated satisfaction from our sparkling water makers.