[Answered] Highlight the technical and socio-economic reasons behind the failure of previous attempts for the elimination of Single-use plastic (SUP). Do you think that substituting the SUP with other materials may solve the present environmental crisis?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain some technical and socio-economic reasons behind the failure of previous attempts for the elimination of Single-use plastic. Explain how substituting the SUP with other materials may solve the present environmental crisis and also its negative aspects.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Single-use plastic refers to plastic items that are used once and discarded. Single-use plastic (SUP) has among the highest shares of plastic manufactured and used- from packaging of items, to bottles, polythene bags, food packaging etc. It accounts for a third of all plastic produced globally, with 98% manufactured from fossil fuels.

Reasons:

  • Over-reliance on single use plastics: Extensive use of single use plastics, increasing global consumption, and low participation in recycling programs have led to more plastic production.
  • Consumption externality: As the number of consumers is high, the cost of controlling them is also high. Imposing the cost of harm done by plastic use on all consumers may not yield efficient solutions.
  • Increases substitution cost: The lack of a viable substitute and high cost associated with replacing plastics has slowed the process of phasing out of plastics. As Plastic provides a cheaper solution to the needs of consumers.
  • Risk of unemployment: The resistance from the plastic industry and fear of loss of employment hinder the phasing out of single-use plastics.
  • Difficult to apply global measures: It is difficult to create global measures like taxation that are acceptable to all countries because measures may depend on country-specific circumstances.

The ban on single-use plastic will harbour innovation, specifically for plant-based rapid biodegradable products. Stainless steel, glass, Platinum Silicone, Bamboo, pottery and ceramics, and other long-lasting plastic alternatives are currently available. Bioplastics can also be utilised to replace regular polymers in other ways. Bioplastics are a type of plastic manufactured from natural materials like vegetable oils and starches. Some benefits are:

  • Preventing pollution by lessening the amount of new raw materials used,
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute towards climate change
  • Reduces the amount of waste that needs to be recycled or, in developing countries, sent to landfills/incinerators.
  • Saves money, since reusable items work out cheaper than constantly purchasing more plastic.

Challenges: Growing demand for bioplastics creates competition for food sources, contributing to the global food crisis.  Landfills are not designed to break anything down. Bioplastics would not biodegrade in a landfill.  It may encourage people to litter more. Moroever, bioplastics are not the answer to marine litter.

While the production model of plastic is very huge and uncontrollable, the numbers of recycling plants are very less. Thus, a ban on single-use plastic would help. Government should educate the public and trade bodies to achieve the benefits of the ban.

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