pandemic fight against plastic

How the Pandemic Has Set Us Back in the Fight Against Plastic

There is no doubt; the Coronavirus has done absolutely nothing to assist in our fight against plastic. As the pandemic hit and laws were put in place worldwide the global demand for single-use plastic shot through the roof. The problem with this surge in demand meant that the price war between recycled plastics and new plastics (made by the oil industry) intensified. A study done by S&P Global Platts (Commodity Market Specialist) revealed that recycled plastic costs around double per tonne than newly made plastic does.

But why has there been such a dramatic drop in the price of new plastic; when the pandemic hit the entire world went into an economic slowdown, many economies are still operating at a fraction of what they once were before March 2020. This downturn in economic activity dropped the price of oil dramatically, and as all new plastic’s journey begins as a fossil fuel it meant that the cost of new plastic creation dropped too.

What further adds to this disastrous change of events is the timing; the world was finally getting on board with the idea of moving away from new and single-use plastics; with governments and new laws were being put into effect to curb the increasing plastic problem. 

Plastic recycling companies are struggling globally, with businesses in Europe decreasing by 20%, 50% in Asia and 60% for some companies in the USA. These are the companies who are at the frontline of changing the way the world interacts with plastic, and now they are struggling to keep their doors open. 

The prospect of plastic waste slowly strangling our planet and our seas is looking grim. 

However, on January 1 this year (2021) the EU introduced a plastics tax of 800 Euro per metric tonne on plastic packaging that is not made from recycled plastic, and other governments around the world are following suit. In April 2020 Tito Mboweni increased the retail cost per plastic bag from 12c to 25c and added a reduced levy of 12.5 cents for all bio-based plastic bags, with a promise to look into key role-players in the single-use plastic industry. 

The price tag now attached to virgin plastics in Europe is putting plastic recycling companies in a more favourable market position, as well as enforcing a new standardisation of recycled plastic products. This is putting pressure on Asian and American economies to follow suit, as we continue to fight the plastic pandemic as a globe. 
As a consumer you can do your bit to fight plastic waste; buy reusable masks, shop all your essentials waste-free and avoid single-use in your daily habits.  


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