When Americans throw plastic bottles or cups into recycling bins, they think they will be recycled. It shows that only a small part of the recently released report has been recycled.
"The plastic recovery rate in the United States has never reached 4% to 5%." Jane Dale, founder of the environmental group last beach clean, told the guardian.
According to the report released on May 4 by the "final beach cleaning", although plastic recycling is decreasing, the per capita plastic waste produced in the United States has increased by 263% since 1980, from 60 pounds per person to 218 pounds per person. This conclusion is supported by a report released by the U.S. Department of energy in early May, which said that the plastic waste landfilled in the United States has been increasing due to "low recovery rate, population growth, consumer preference for disposable plastics, and low treatment fees in some parts of the United States".
Changes in the global recycling market are also one of the reasons. In the past, hundreds of thousands of tons of American plastic waste were transported to developing countries, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. Some villages in these countries soon became "plastic dumps" in the United States, the guardian said. However, since 2017, many countries have banned the import of reusable items, especially contaminated or difficult to recycle plastic waste.
Plastic waste in the United States without a "convenient place to go" will not be recycled because there are few facilities in the United States to recycle it. "We don't have a factory that can do it." "This process is very water intensive, so we won't build more plastic recycling facilities in the United States," Dell told the guardian
According to Dell's research, about 85% of the plastic will eventually be landfilled and the remaining 10% will be burned. Even if plastic is recycled, about one-third of the material in a plastic bottle will be discarded in the recycling process. These treatments can lead to increased pollution and threaten the health of people living in heavy industrial areas and near garbage dumps in the United States.
"We can't stay in the nightmare of plastic all the time." "We should start by reducing waste, or we can't solve this problem," Dell told the guardian She believes that alternatives to disposable plastics exist, such as the use of recyclable fiber food trays. In the UK, Nestle uses paper instead of plastic to package candy. Of course, reusing and refilling bottles, rather than throwing them away, will also help.
According to the guardian, bans on disposable plastic products such as bags, food containers and tableware are becoming more and more popular, and some cities in the European Union and the United States have introduced such bans.
In order to better solve the problem of plastic pollution, scientists have been thinking. According to the website of the North American youth culture platform "Vice", several scientists at the University of Texas at Austin recently found a protein named fast-pet enzyme, which can decompose polyethylene terephthalate (PET) components. The latter is a synthetic resin used for clothing fibers and plastics.
This protein functions through the depolymerization process. In this process, the components constituting pet are separated into original monomers, which can be re polymerized and transformed into other products. Impressively, these enzymes can break down plastic in a week, and people are under the impression that plastic may take centuries to complete degradation.
"This enzyme can break down plastic into original monomers." Hal Alper, a professor in the Department of chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the paper, told vice that "once you have the original monomer, you can make new plastics from scratch without using additional oil resources."
Alper and his team hope that fast-pet enzyme will be more scalable and really play a role in solving the global plastic crisis. At present, this enzyme can work under different temperature and pH conditions. Now it must be proved that it is "portable" and the cost of large-scale application is controllable.
Alper told vice that he and his team are testing the enzyme on different types of pet. "I believe that fast-pet enzyme can help solve the 'billions of tons' of waste in the environment.".