Knowing that at present it might sound utopia, mineral water, in my opinion, should be available free of charge to everybody since it is essential for life. However, as it is still not possible, authorities have been showing investments and research on changing and improving plastic’s recycling system and waste reduction. According to the Guardian bioplastics, which are made from maize, sugarcane, wheat and other crops are also contributing to the global food crisis by taking over large areas of land previously used to grow crops for human consumption. The below article dated 26/04/08 describes the concern about ‘eco-friendly’ plastics:
The industry, which uses words such as "sustainable", "biodegradeable", "compostable" and "recyclable" to describe its products, says bioplastics make carbon savings of 30-80% compared with conventional oil-based plastics and can extend the shelf-life of food.
Concern centres on corn-based packaging made with polylactic acid (Pla). Made from GM crops, it looks identical to conventional polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) plastic and is produced by US company NatureWorks. The company is jointly owned by Cargill, the world's second largest biofuel producer, and Teijin, one of the world's largest plastic manufacturers. Pla is used by some of the biggest supermarkets and food companies, including Wal-Mart, McDonald's and Del Monte. It is used by Marks & Spencer to package organic foods, salads, snacks, desserts, and fruit and vegetables.
It is also used to bottle Belu mineral water, which is endorsed by environmentalists because the brand's owners invest all profits in water projects in poor countries. Wal-Mart has said it plans to use 114m Pla containers over the course of a year.
While Pla is said to offer more disposal options, the Guardian has found that it will barely break down on landfill sites, and can only be composted in the handful of anaerobic digesters which exist in Britain, but which do not take any packaging. In addition, if Pla is sent to UK recycling works in large quantities, it can contaminate the waste stream, reportedly making other recycled plastics unsaleable.
Concern is mounting because the new generation of biodegradable plastics ends up on landfill sites, where they degrade without oxygen, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This week the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration reported a sharp increase in global methane emissions last year.
"Just because it's biodegradable does not mean it's good. If it goes to landfill it breaks down to methane. Only a percentage is captured," said Peter Skelton of Wrap, the UK government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme. "In theory bioplastics are good. But in practice there are lots of barriers."
There is also concern over the growing use by supermarkets of "oxy-degradable" plastic bags, billed as sustainable. They are made of conventional oil-based plastic, with an additive that enables the plastic to break down. The companies promoting it claim it reduces litter and causes no methane or harmful residues. They are used by Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut and KFC in the US, and Tesco and the Co-op in the UK for "degradable" plastic carrier bags.
There is an exhibition finishing in May at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) showing reusable alternatives for plastic bags. It is featuring a film and selection of products, addresses the problems with plastic and showcases fantastic alternatives from [re]design’s network of sustainable UK designers.
More information visit the link: http://www.redesigndesign.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=433&Itemid=999
Sources: Guardian, NESTA and www.redesigndesign.org Photo: Banksy's graffiti at the tunnel art exhibition in Southbank (May08)