University academics say ban on plastics could damage environment

Environment - Tuesday December 11th, 2018

A group of academics from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland said that a ban on plastics could increase damage to the planet.


Image: L-R: Prof Ted Henry, Prof Kate Sang and Prof David Bucknall. Photo: courtesy of Heriot-Watt University.

Around 40 academics from multiple disciplines, including engineering, sciences, economics and social sciences, have created a new network to deal with issued related to plastic.

Implementing circular economy for plastics is a better way than adopting make-use-dispose model, as there is no credible alternative to plastic, according to academics.

The academics are in favor of urgent requirement to prevent potentially harmful environmental effects of plastics, but consider that current arguments to reduce or ban on plastic are shortsighted and not based on facts.

Heriot-Watt University’s Institute of Chemical Sciences materials chemistry chair professor David Bucknall noted that estimates show that replacement of plastics with currently available materials may double global energy consumption and triple greenhouse gas emissions.

Separate analysis also demonstrated that the environmental cost of replacing plastic could be nearly four times higher.

Bucknall said: “Almost everything we touch or interact with on a daily basis is made of or contains a plastic of some description.

“Banning or reducing their use would have a massive impact on the way we live. For instance, replacing plastics with alternative materials such as glass and metals would cost more to manufacture due to the energy consumed and resources – including water – required to process them.”

Various organizations such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Ellen McCarthur Foundation (EMF) are implementing efficient measures to control the use and disposal of plastics.

As part of the UK Plastics Pact, multiple retailers, manufacturers, recyclers and resource management groups have agreed to take necessary steps to use only reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 in the UK.

The UK Government has also announced plans to launch a new tax from 1 April 2022 on produced or imported plastic packaging, which does not include minimum 30% recycled content.

Heriot-Watt’s School of Social Sciences gender and employment studies professor Kate Sang said: “If we are to tackle the debate on plastic then we have to do so from an evidence based position.

“While we have all seen the environmental damage caused by plastic pollution, we must recognise that single use plastics have transformed healthcare in this country and have become essential for delivering a safe and responsible health service.”


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