The invention of Bakelite in 1907, a kind of plastic, marks the start of the global plastic industry. However, this industry has not seen a fast growth until 1950s. Starting from 1950s till 2015, annual plastic production increased by nearly 200 times to 381 million tons. This number roughly equals two-thirds of the mass of the world's human population.
Today, there are hundreds of types of plastics that have their own structure, color and properties. In order to produce solutions that go beyond removing plastic as a waste from the system, we need to make improvements in waste management systems and change our approach as individuals. Considering plastic waste as a resource and reusing it in the production system is critical for a sustainable future.
To summarize how plastic pollution affects the world briefly:
- Plastic pollution has negative impacts on our oceans and wildlife.
- High-income countries produce more plastic waste per capita. However, it is the management of plastic waste that determines whether they will end up in oceans or not. High-income countries use waste management systems effectively; therefore, the rate of plastic pollution -created by these countries- ending up in the oceans is much lower. The inadequacy of waste management systems in many middle and low-income countries makes them the main sources of global ocean plastic pollution.
- This demonstrates the importance of the development of waste management systems around the world in reducing plastic pollution.
- Most of the world's plastics - 82 million tons of macro plastic and 40 million tons of micro plastic - are accumulated on the coastlines.
- Most of the macroplastics on the coastlines are at most 15 years old. The reason for this is the dissolution of macroplastics into microplastics.
- By 2050, the seas are expected to contain more plastic than fish in mass.
Plastic Waste and Recycling in Turkey
According to the OECD's data "Municipal Waste, Production and Treatment", Turkey's waste recycling rate was 10% in 2018 and OECD average waste recycling rate was 36%. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, which was held in September, "We are expanding the Zero Waste Project in Turkey. We will move to zero-waste system in approximately 400,000 buildings by 2023.” and added “We will increase the rate of recycling from 13 percent to 35 percent”. Zero Waste Project is run by Republic of Turkey Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.
Individuals also have important responsibilities to increase the recycling rate in waste and reduce plastic consumption. Separating waste for recycling at our houses and workplaces is one of the most important of these steps. To reduce the pollution caused by single-use plastic we can carry flasks for our water consumption to prevent the consumption of plastic pet bottles, use reusable plastic packages, not use plastic straws, use cloth bags instead of plastic bags
There are many steps to combat plastic pollution that can be easily implemented.