How many times have you heard companies tell about the environmental virtuosity of their packaging products? Lately this song has become a hit.
But are we all so virtuous?
What do you have to be careful of?
Let's find out when (and IF) packaging is REALLY recyclable, and what they tell you when they just want you to believe it.
We all learned it by heart: plastic, like any other material, must be properly disposed. Yet there are cities and countries in the world where the differentiated collection of waste and its disposal do not work as in Italy. And, often, the waste ends up (more or less legally) in the sea. When the plastic ends up in the sea and goes to the bottom it is lost. Impossible (with the technology we currently have) to recover it.
To recover plastic from the sea, the plastic MUST FLOAT.
This is possible only with plastic materials with a density lower than 1 g / cm3.
The "virtuosos" of plastic who offer PVC, PET, Polyamide etc, with densities higher than 1 g/cm3 ARE NOT PROPOSING ECO-FRIENDLY MATERIALS.
The plastic market today is able to offer green materials, however some operators go on using old-generation polymers. An example? The irradiated thermo-hardening films which cannot be re-granulated (recycled, cleaned and transformed into granules to be reused) must be eliminated after the first use.
There are many ecological alternatives to these production processes!
Today we have selective permeability films that can replace obsolete films but in supermarkets, under attractive images of happy cows and crystalline seas, PVC makes a fine show of itself but there is nothing of ecological at all.
Misleading communication often takes advantage of the confusion surrounding some similar terms, yet professionals in the sector should know their meaning well. This is the case of the necessary distinction between oxo-degradable and bio-degradable films: if the former (prohibited) are harmful for the environment because, in contact with oxygen, they fragment into small particles that are dispersed on soil and in water, on the other hand, bio-degradable materials are bio-compatible and decompose within a reasonably short time.
1. PLA polymers, necessary for the production of bio-degradable films, have a density higher than 1 g/cm3, a characteristic that does not allow them to float in water. Especially in this case, therefore, the differentiation of waste collection and its correct disposal is essential.
2. How to ask private citizens to distinguish between PE, PP and biodegradable PLA for the composting of their gardens?
3. Compost is formed with adequate (high) temperature and humidity conditions, not always and not everywhere. How to use this system in countries that do not have the climate of Colombia (for example)?
Sometimes recyclable materials are incinerated along with those that are not, the result is a waste of money and the lost possibility of reuse.
It is an intolerable slap in the face of the commitment that researchers, producers and users put into the creation and use of green products.
The topic is complex. Professionals in the sector are expected to know every aspect of the topic, but the public is not.
So let's start transmitting a few but clear concepts, so that people are able to make a conscious choice: “green plastics” exist and recyclable ones have a density of less than 1 g/cm3!
The only way forward is circular economy: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.