From a straw to a car, plastic is everywhere in our daily life. How did plastics become a world pollution from indispensability? What harm will plastic pollution bring? What is the key point of controlling plastic pollution? What role does plastics play in energy conservation and emission reduction? In this regard, on the occasion of the 2022 national energy conservation publicity week, our reporter specially interviewed Yao Xin, vice president of Tsinghua Suzhou Institute of environmental innovation.
From indispensable to world pollution
Since its birth in 1907, plastic has been widely used in various fields of the national economy, such as industry, agriculture, service industry and so on, with its light weight, low manufacturing cost and strong plasticity. It integrates into all aspects of production and life, brings great convenience to people's daily life, and has become the basic material for the development of modern economy and society together with steel, wood and cement.
Up to now, there are nearly 100 kinds of known plastic materials, among which polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), ABS resin and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are widely used. According to the data of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world plastic production soared from 2million tons in 1950 to 348million tons in 2017. It is expected that the production capacity will double by 2040. Large scale plastic production has brought convenience to people, but also brought difficulties to nature - a large number of plastic production and waste are causing a dual environmental crisis with climate change.
"Plastic itself is not a pollutant. The essence of plastic pollution is the environmental leakage caused by improper management of plastic waste. Such a serious problem of plastic pollution is also the result of long-term accumulation in history. Plastic pollution is harmful to agriculture, ecological environment, biodiversity and human health. In particular, due to its stable physical and chemical structure, plastic may not be decomposed in the natural environment for decades to hundreds of years. If it is discarded at will, it will be It will lead to the permanent existence and continuous accumulation of pollutants in the environment, and will bring serious environmental hazards such as visual pollution, soil damage, water pollution and so on. " Yao Xin expresses.
Construction of plastic circular economy system
"At present, China's plastic pollution control system has been basically established, the whole chain of plastic pollution control has achieved positive results, and the source reduction has been further promoted. In particular, the plastic pollution recycling system and terminal disposal have achieved remarkable results, and the problem of plastic waste pollution has been effectively curbed." Although some achievements have been made in plastic pollution control, Yao Xin believes that the following difficulties still exist in plastic pollution control.
First, there are still a large number of plastic wastes accumulated in the natural environment such as coastal waters, rivers and lakes, which need to be cleaned up and disposed. Second, there is still room for improvement in the recycling and disposal system of plastic wastes.
At present, about 10% of the administrative villages in rural areas have not established a domestic waste removal and transportation system. About 20% of the agricultural film is not recycled every year, which means that about 300000 tons of agricultural film fragments leak into the natural environment. Third, emerging businesses such as express packaging and takeout lunch boxes have promoted the continuous growth of China's output of relevant plastic products, but the recycling facilities of emerging businesses are insufficient, and the level of refinement of plastic waste recycling still needs to be improved. Fourth, the main responsibilities of domestic enterprises and consumers are not clear, and the awareness of saving is not strong, resulting in excessive packaging of goods and other problems still exist.
Plastic pollution control should be carried out step by step by means of reduction, substitution, reuse, recycling, etc., and a long-term and stable plastic circular economy system should be built based on the coordinated response of multiple social subjects.
Specifically, the focus of China's plastic pollution control should focus on the following five aspects: first, focus on source reduction, and reduce the production and use of disposable plastic products from the source through the control of production design and circulation consumption; Second, promote standardized recycling, constantly improve and improve the recycling system, explore new recycling modes for waste plastics with different characteristics, improve recycling efficiency, reduce recycling costs, and reduce the leakage of waste plastics in the environment; Third, improve the utilization level, build different levels of waste plastics recycling system, improve the utilization value, and encourage the promotion and application of recycled plastics in products; Fourth, guide the public to participate, strengthen the publicity, education and scientific popularization of plastic pollution control, and guide the public to develop green consumption habits; Fifth, promote mechanism innovation. Through technological innovation and business model innovation, improve the fiscal and tax price policies conducive to the recycling of waste plastics, and balance the environmental and economic benefits of waste plastics recycling.
"Turning waste into treasure" to realize energy conservation and emission reduction
"Plastic waste has the dual attributes of resources and pollutants. Effective recycling can become renewable resources, but poor treatment will become pollutants." Yao Xin believes that recycling plastic wastes and realizing "turning waste into treasure" can reduce the excessive consumption of non renewable natural resources and achieve energy conservation and emission reduction.
On the one hand, recycling waste plastics for resource regeneration can reduce the dependence on the original plastics produced by oil, reduce the consumption of natural resources, and bring economic benefits of saving resources; On the other hand, recycling waste plastics can directly reduce the pressure of plastic waste on the ecological environment. Compared with the traditional plastic preparation process, the recycling process of waste plastics shortens the production and processing industrial chain of plastic products, and can effectively reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. According to Yao Xin, in the past 10 years, China has realized the material recycling of 170million tons of various waste plastics, equivalent to reducing 61.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which has become an important support for the realization of carbon peak and carbon neutralization in the plastic field.
"Therefore, the effective construction of a closed-loop plastic recycling system is an important path to realize the sustainable development of plastics, and it is also a priority scheme for energy conservation and emission reduction."
Yao Xin told the reporter that relying on the huge plastic industry, China has established a perfect recycling system of waste plastics, forming a perfect recycling system covering the high, middle and low end, with a material utilization rate of more than 30%. China has basically realized 100% local utilization of plastic waste, which provides a reference for other countries in the world to control plastic pollution.
At present, recycled plastics are widely used in textile, automobile, packaging, consumer electronics, agriculture, building materials, etc. According to the statistics of recycled plastics branch of China Materials Recycling Association, recycled plastics are the most widely used in the field of film and injection molding, followed by the application in the field of hollow pipes.
Contact Person: Mr. Fan