The problem is not the plastic, it is us. Here’s why

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“Anyone with half a brain, having taken note of our approach to plastics, would take us for fools.” Simone Molteni, scientific director of LifeGate, the company that is considered the benchmark for sustainability in Italy and has a community of 6 million people: “We have known for years that plastic is a problem. In the last period, then, between macro and microplastics, the issue has come to the fore in all its seriousness: so why are single-use plastic straws still given away in bars, why are gift gadgets in stores made of plastic?

Why are balloons used at children’s parties? Why do coffee vending machines have plastic cups? I will tell you why: because we have no awareness and because no reasonable policy has been made on the price of plastic. It is clear that that price does not take into account the environmental costs that are created, which remain with all citizens.”

Plastic costs very little, is ‘given away’ and here our seas (but not only) are being invaded. “Plastics should not be demonized, but the use we are used to making of them should be. If production were done in a ‘closed loop,’ that is, if we knew what plastic items are made for and especially where they go after use, as in the medical field, we would have everything under control. But now that the omelette is made we should ban plastics for single-use items and all ‘open’ supply chains. The price should be revised upward to include environmental costs: if it were more expensive it would also be less attractive on a large scale.”

In this sense, the European Union resolution banning single-use plastics is a good step forward: “Definitely. I am convinced that we can change for the better, in the future, because unlike the problem of global warming (arising, just like that of plastic pollution, from the misuse of fossil fuels) this one is tangible and easily communicated. Our seas are full of plastic, and everyone can see it.” For theUne, the United Nations Environment Program, the Mediterranean Sea is forced to take in 731 tons of plastic waste every day, which could double by 2025.

Once the problem is acknowledged, action must be taken, and Molteni and LifeGate are clear in their thinking: they have promoted, among their many projects, Plasticless, focused on plastic pollution in our seas. Concrete actions include the installation of SeaBin, or the “waste-eating” bins that are already operational in some Italian marinas (Marina di Varazze, Marina dei Cesari, etc.): “These bins are only a small part of the solution: it is a very efficient device that can filter water in marinas and collect macro and microplastics (up to 2 mm and microfibers up to 0.3 mm, ed.). Its operation is simple but you have to install it in the right place, taking into account winds and currents.”

Then there is outreach, on which some of us at Medplastic are also focusing a lot: “On the one hand, communication to people, to educate them about a sustainable lifestyle, and on the other hand to companies, to ‘push’ them toward a circular economy system. We have selected partners who share our ‘plastic free’ values, such as Whirlpool and Volvo.”

Eugene Ruocco

Simone Molteni

WHO SIMONE MOLTENI IS
Simone Molteni is a true “guru” in the world of sustainability: a cum laude graduate of the Milan Polytechnic, he began his professional career as a university researcher at the Solar Energy Laboratory of the Lausanne Polytechnic. Since 2002, he has been scientific director of LifeGate, the benchmark for sustainability in Italy. He founded and directed Impact Zero, the first project to combat climate change involving more than 1,000 companies and 400 million products. Thanks to the Zero Impact project, forests have been created in Italy and 5 countries in the Global South. From 2013 and until December 2015, he was editorial director of all Expo Milano 2015 digital projects and in particular of ExpoNet, the official magazine of Expo Milano 2015. He has been general manager of LifeGate Energy since 2015. He is currently a board member of the operating companies of the LifeGate Group.

 

 

 

Main image source: National Geographic

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