FINALLY – the Truth about Plastics & the Environment
By Dr. Chris DeArmitt FRSC
World-class plastic materials scientist
Q. Are plastics bad for the environment?
A. No, according to the best scientific studies, plastics are usually the greenest option. They are better for the environment than metal, glass, cotton and usually paper.
Q. Are aluminium cans greener than PET bottles for soft drinks?
A. No. Studies show that PET is far greener than aluminium cans or glass bottles. Using PET saves energy, carbon dioxide and waste.
Q. Are there huge floating islands (gyres) of plastic in the ocean?
A. No. There are no such islands. There are areas where plastics concentrate but levels are so low, you can’t even tell if you are sailing or swimming there.
Q. Should we switch to biodegradable materials?
A. No. Biodegradable materials are less green than plastics and when they degrade, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide.
Q. Do plastics take 1000 years to degrade?
A. No. Plastics degrade just like all carbon-based materials like wood and leaves. A plastic bag disintegrates to dust in less than one year outdoors.
Q. Will the be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050?
A. No. This was debunked (see BBC article). It was based on two studies but the studies do not support this claim.
Q. Are the oil industry pushing plastics onto the market to save themselves from declining sales?
A. No. If you increase supply of a commodity, like plastics, the price drops and you lose money. It makes no business sense to increase the supply.
Q. Do plastics create a waste problem?
A. No. Plastics are just 11-13% of all waste and they are proven to reduce overall waste creation. In fact, replacing plastics requires 3-4x more of the replacement material.
Q. Do plastics create litter?
A. No. The scientific evidence shows that people are the cause of litter. To stop litter, we need to encourage better human behaviour via education and legislation.
Q. Do plastics harm marine wildlife?
A. Yes, abandoned nets in particular cause harm. Nets are abandoned in huge amounts by the fishing industry and we need strict regulations to stop that practice.
Q. Should we ban plastic bags?
A. No. Every study shows plastic bags are the greenest alternative. Changing to paper bags means cutting down millions more trees per year, more carbon dioxide released and generating up to 10x more waste.
Q. Do plastics consume huge amounts of fossil fuel?
A. No. Only 4-5% of oil is used to make plastics and the plastics save more than that by reducing the weight of our cars, by thermally insulating buildings and by using less energy to make than other materials.
Q. Does the USA consume 500 million straws per day?
A. No. That number was made up by a 9 year old schoolboy called Milo Cress. The press repeated it without thinking to check it first.