Las verdades ocultas de los desechos plásticos

NEWARK, NUEVA JERSEY – Los plásticos están en todas partes. Ya sea si se los utiliza para guardar sobras de comida, mantener estériles los equipos hospitalarios o para proporcionar aislamiento a una casa, los plásticos son incomparables por su adaptabilidad, durabilidad y bajo costo. Si se toma en cuenta que sus beneficios son aparentemente ilimitados, no causa sorpresa que los plásticos sustituyan a los materiales tradicionales en muchos sectores – por ejemplo, al acero en los automóviles, al papel y al vidrio en el empaque y a la madera en los muebles. Como resultado, el consumo anual de plásticos en todo el mundo ha aumentado de cinco millones de toneladas en el año 1950 a alrededor de 280 millones de toneladas en la actualidad.

Aproximadamente la mitad de los productos plásticos, como por ejemplo los utilizados en empaque, están destinados a aplicaciones con una vida útil corta (menos de seis meses) y a ser utilizados una sola vez antes de ser desechados. Debido a que la mayoría de estos artículos no son biodegradables, y no se los recicla, los residuos plásticos se acumulan – con graves consecuencias  ambientales. Si bien los gobiernos han comenzado a aplicar normativas nuevas (que a menudo son bastante estrictas) destinadas a la gestión de los residuos plásticos – por ejemplo, China prohibió las bolsas de plástico de peso ligero en  el año 2008 – dichas normativas son insuficientes para abordar el creciente  problema con los desechos plásticos que enfrenta el mundo.

Además, la mayoría de los productos de plástico se fabrican con los llamados “termoplásticos comerciales a base de petróleo”. Si se toma en cuenta que un recurso no renovable se encuentra en la base de muchos productos plásticos – la mayoría de los cuales no va a durar mucho tiempo – los patrones actuales de uso de plásticos no son sostenibles.

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