Recently, a news report that the rise of the take-out food industry will lead to a disaster for future generations has spread widely in cyberspace. It again raises public concerns over the worsening plastic pollution.
Over 600 million people in China now order take-out food online, and 63.6 percent of them do so more than three times a week. It is estimated that 400 million disposable packing boxes, 400 million plastic bags and 400 million disposable utensils are produced and discarded every week. The huge plastic waste causes a serious environmental problem. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Plastic materials are also widely used in the express delivery, clothes, furniture, electronics and other industries.
Plastic waste is hard to degrade. Simply burying or burning it is the most commonly used way to deal with plastic waste. But that will contaminate the air and water, causing more health problems. To tackle this environmental challenge, the State Council had implemented a ban on free plastic bags in retailing in 2008. The use of plastic bags has been largely decreased in large supermarkets and shopping malls.
But the ban seems to have less effect on the take-out food and express delivery. Therefore, the government should push forward research and development of technology for plastic degradation and encourage companies to use degradable materials to replace plastic packages.
In the short term, recycling is an environmentally friendly way to deal with solid plastic waste. Many kinds of plastic waste can be reused, such as plastic bottles. Meanwhile, the public should cultivate habits of sorting garbage and recycling plastic waste as well as disposing them properly.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in the Nanfang Daily on September 20)