Plastic is literally found in most things these days. Many food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Cars, phones, water bottles, milk cartons and computers are made from plastic. It even comes in the form of gum. Over the past decade, more disposable plastic products have been manufactured by consumer demand. Unfortunately, most plastic items are specifically designed not to break down and therefore difficult to recycle, most of which end up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans – contributing to the devastating problem of plastic pollution which many industries are responsible for, including restaurants.
There is an irrefutable correlation between the amounts of waste people produce to the world’s growing population. Fast pace lifestyles demand easily disposable (plastic) products such as water bottles and soda cans. Overtime, the accumulation of these products has had disastrous environmental effects due to the increasing amounts of plastic pollution. Plastic is composed of toxic pollutants that have the potential to cause great harm to our environment in the form of land, water and air pollution.
Plastic pollution occurs when unattended accumulating discarded plastic materials begin to have a negative environmental impact. More often than not, it creates problems for the vegetation, wildlife and even human population. Plastic is a useful material made for the convenience of many but contains a toxic compound which causes illnesses and threatens the health and lives of many living organisms. Because plastic products, including the use of straws at restaurants, are meant for durability, they are unfortunately not biodegradable.
Because plastic is supposedly less expensive than other materials, it is quickly overused. While trying to create solutions for the problem of plastic pollution with implementations of recycling or cleaning up empty bottles and straws, the plastic that is causing the pollution ranges in size from being microscopic to big. When plastic is disposed of in landfill sites, its decomposition takes a while and pollutes the soil in the area in the meantime. Additionally, most people tend to throw plastic bottles, straws, bags and other items away, even after a single use. Doing so drastically contributes to the increasing pollution rate on land as well as in the oceans in both developing and underdeveloped countries.
Steps are being taken towards applying eco-friendly practices to combat plastic pollution in the food industry such as considering plastic straw alternatives for restaurants. While these resolutions seem paltry for the most part, anti-plastic campaigns are making a difference. Efforts to ban plastic straws and bags at restaurants, for instance, can raise awareness and change certain habits over time. Restaurants are ditching plastic furniture and taking a gradual turn in purchasing commercial grade furniture made from natural materials that are finished without any harsh chemicals such as these wood restaurant tables and restaurant booths that are easy to clean and maintain.
As restaurants are becoming more informed about the disastrous effects of plastic pollution, they are taking more initiatives to preserve the environment. In Seattle, plastic has been the straw that has broken the camel’s back. Seattle has been one of the major cities in the US to enact plastic straw bans at restaurants as well as usage of other plastic products. Now dubbed as Strawless in Seattle, over 200 retailers in that region happily agreed to take measures to prevent plastic from polluting ocean waters which would threaten marine life. Pressures on companies to cut plastic waste have crossed through the English Channel into Britain and McDonald’s is seriously considering banning plastic straws in all of its restaurants across the UK. Paper biodegradable drinking straws and other types of reusable straws are seen as plastic straw alternatives for restaurants.
Environmentally conscious restaurant owners and operators are attempting to reduce the use of plastic in food preparation and service. Plastic litter from takeout orders including cups, straws, plates, and cutlery is the prime source of plastic pollution with an estimate of 269,000 tons of waste swept into waterways and oceans! Because plastic is an indigestible substance to the earth, humans and animals alike, they cause great harm to marine life and affect human health in one of the most detrimental ways. Over a million pieces of plastic utensils are used every day by Americans. They approximately take 1,000 years to decompose, leaking noxious matters into the earth as they slowly disintegrate. Because polystyrene foam is not biodegradable, it has been proven to have severe long-term health ramifications and has been discontinued in green certified restaurants. Although recycling waste materials is better than discarding them at landfills, avoid producing waste altogether is the best option.
Americans alone are responsible for producing an annual hopping 220 million tons of waste – a number exceeding beyond the amount of waste other nations of the world produce. In response to this shocking statistic, government and environmental associations have collaborated together to develop numerous methods to resolve this problem. Waste management is one of the mentionable solutions – rather a complex issue that encompasses over 20 different industries in the country. Waste management is essentially a collection, transportation and disposable of garbage and a gamut of other waste products including plastic. It’s a process that treats solid wastes and offers a variety of solutions for recycling items that don’t belong in the trash can.
Solutions to plastic waste are underway and many forward thinking restaurants and chains turn to waste management for a full menu of techniques to achieve substantiality without sacrificing profitability. They are looking to enhance their green reputation by developing full integrated services that allow restaurants to control expenses, raise recycling rates and increase diversions. From proper recycling training procedures to managing waste-related health, safety and regulatory compliance issues, waste management brings proven environment solutions to the table. As the restaurant industry is trending towards a more ecological image, it is moving beyond elementary recycling and broad green messages to customized programs that actually deliver real environmental and financial benefits.
Plastic is an integral part of our daily activities and while one cannot rule out the advantages of plastic, the disadvantages can be reduced to some extent with the following solutions:
- Plastic recycling can reduce the impact of environmental pollution due to plastic waste. This can be done by separating plastic products from the garbage for recycling. The plastic recycling industry has now a net worth of a billion dollars in developed economies! Recycled plastic is used for laying down roads in place of bitumen, benches, bottles, etc. Using recycled plastic also helps with waste management.
- Incinerators are being used to burn plastic waste at furnace centers located outside of city limits in developed economies and now developing economies are following this practice as well. This method eliminates huge volumes of plastic litter but the concerns related to air pollution resulting from the incineration have been raised. However, efforts are being made to improve technology to reduce air pollution.
- Prohibition on manufacturing and selling plastic bags, straws and other materials, as previously mentioned, have been legislated in several American cities. Some governments in developed countries have outlawed the manufacture and selling of plastic items that contain more than the standard prescribed microns of plastic. This parameter has controlled the excessive dependence that people have on plastic to a certain extent.
- Replacement of plastic with paper or other biodegradable materials is becoming the norm among consumers. By using reusable dishware for on-site dining, investing in stainless steel food containers with lids for storing and preparing food, using glasses and cloth napkins, and reducing packaging, you may become less reliant on plastic.
- Implementing the best civic practices can have positive outcomes on the environment. One of the best tips for the proper disposable of plastic waste is using garbage/dust bins in public areas. Avoid throwing plastic garbage in open spaces, especially located around water channels and other fragile natural resources. Follow the government regulations and help agencies deal with plastic waste. Lastly, raise awareness among restaurants about eco-friendly business practices of plastic waste management and run a campaign as well. If you can, introduce them to various waste management programs.
In conclusion, the use of plastic items can be controlled and plastic pollution can be minimized with an effective waste management system that should be implemented and enforced.