The plastic problem is really a people problem

There are many in the anti-plastics crowd who like to vilify resin producers and the processors that make plastic products. But who is really to blame for all of the plastic waste we see in the environment? A recent article by Robin Hicks at eco-business.com (“Litterbugs, Not Plastic Manufacturers, are Responsible for the Plastic Crisis”) quotes Richard Jones, Senior Vice President at Indorama Ventures, a Bangkok-headquartered multi-billion dollar plastic manufacturer, who said that “while plastic firms have a duty to help tackle the plastic crisis, ‘we’re not responsible.’”

littering from car

I’d like to think that Jones has been reading my blogs in PlasticsToday, when he commented that “plastic does not have legs” nor, I might add, does it throw itself into the environment. I read many comments about plastics that “escape” into the environment, as if someone has held plastics prisoner until these items were able to get away and jump into the ocean. Plastic does not escape anywhere—people throw plastic trash into the environment.

“Thailand has one of the highest road accident death rates in the world, but people do not blame roads or the steel used to make cars,” Hicks quoted Jones as saying. “It’s not the packaging [that’s the problem]. It’s how it’s used and abused. People need to dispose of litter properly.”

Hicks pointed out that Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin, son of the inventor of the plastic bag, said in an article in British newspaper The Independent this week that “plastic bags were invented as an alternative to paper bags, which were considered bad for the environment because they drove deforestation.”

Indorama Ventures currently operates 11 recycling sites around the world, and the company is committed to investing $1.5 billion in additional recycling plants “in response to the awareness of plastic pollution among consumers and pressure from regulators.”

Plastics cannot be recycled unless they are collected, sorted and sent to a facility that can process them. If litterbugs continue to throw plastic waste into the environment where it cannot be collected, we’ll continue to have a problem. But it won’t be a plastic problem—it will be a people problem.

Image: Structuresxx/Adobe Stock

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