Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Plastics and Us

Through the stone, bronze and iron age we have arrived at the plastic era. Percy Marks (1891-1956) an English professor at Brown University had published the novel: The Plastic Age in 1924, the second best-selling book of the time. In 1967 the film The Graduate in conversation with the main character we hear: "There is a great future in plastics." So begins the column in the Peace Weekly on Plastics.

At first, plastics were considered a magical gift to mankind. It was used as a major industrial material, able to make just about everything, produced more than steel. Reports of toxic substances in plastics, marine dumping, and decayed trash prompted the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations on plastics.

Currently, about 700 species of marine life are contaminated with plastic, and 60% of the waste on the coast of Jeju are plastic—fish, and shellfish mistake it for food and it comes back to our tables. Korea is the world's largest consumer of plastic.

Consequently, the answer is not to use disposable plastic. If used, a thorough waste management process should be established so that it can be recycled without flowing into the sea.

In addition to disposable products and disposable items we commonly use, there are other things to keep in mind. Cigarette butts are a harmful waste, and the harmful components of the cigarettes are contained in the filter. 90% of domestic commercial cigarettes use a plastic filter made of cellulose acetate, discarded they pollute the environment.

Cigarette butts are thrown away on the streets, blocking drainpipes and causing microplastics to pollute the oceans. According to data from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, cigarette butts unlawfully thrown on the streets are a very significant amount of trash.

From the viewpoint of 'trash marine management', waste discarded most easily on land and directly connected to the microplastic problem is the cigarette butt. Fine plastic is a threat to our health because it disturbs the marine ecosystem, chemicals leached from cigarette butts are toxic and pollute the ocean and the marine ecosystem.

One should never throw a butt on the street. Important will be the role of producers and sellers for recycling purposes. Recently, WHO is recommending the introduction of the Producer Responsibility Recycling System (EPR) to cigarette butts in which producers bear the waste disposal costs and the EU is also pushing for the introduction of ERP legislation.

The government should cooperate with other ministries to establish a safe collection strategy, as well as to create a roadmap for reduction of waste. Above all, it's necessary to promote public awareness and action through education and publicity to properly recognize the problems of cigarette butts and disposable plastics and dispose of them properly. Would not God be happy if the church got involved?