PLASTIC BOTTLES: SUCH A DEADLY CONVENIENCE
Way back in my early childhood, carbonated soft drinks came in glass bottles. I will be damned if beverage companies didn’t suddenly turn to thin packaging, arguing that plastic bottles were bound to be more convenient for their customers to carry. If Coca Cola and Pepsi could fool everyone in the world, we would never know their actual intentions were to hasten production (a soda factory in Namanve does not have to wait on the plastic bottles sent to Masaka) and minimize production costs as oil and natural gas are only becoming cheaper, making plastic production much lucrative.
Before the dumbest person knew it, all the world and his wife were flaunting plastic bottles and discarding them at will—on a moving bus. I don’t think anyone sane would throw a glass bottle out the window of a taxi after drinking their soda. Do we ever imagine how much of a problem came along with the invention-for-convenience?
Yesterday, or was it the other day, I opened some organic chemistry texts, purposely to find out in elemental terms how I have always harmed the environment in connivance with the manufacturers of Mirinda Fruity, my favorite soft drink. Here are my findings: plastics are made from ethylene and propylene, both products of oil and natural gas. One of my research sources intimates that over 4% of the world’s petroleum production goes to making plastics and then 4% to refining the same. That did not appear to be any of my business, the implications did.
The process of manufacturing plastics involves the emission of greenhouse gases that have been rightly blamed for engineering global warming. Let’s face these alarming facts: over 900 million tonnes of greenhouse gases are billowed up into the atmosphere every year from plastic production and incineration. By 2050, World Economic Forum has it, the figure will have more than tripled —to 2.8 billion tonnes. All going up to the already dilapidated ozone layer.
In defence of their deadly invention, beverage manufacturers are often found claiming plastics have a great advantage of being reusable and recyclable. Ideally, but not practically. There is no public will to reuse plastic bottles. These bottles are cheap and abundant, and not beautiful after they have been emptied of their content. People will always discard them. Someone put me through to James Quincy; he had better know their lies cannot hold anymore. We know very well that glass bottles stand a better chance of being reused and companies will be looking out for them for recycling after many cycles of reuse. Which is a good thing.
Our worry has usually been that when plastics are stuffed in the earth or piled over it, the soil is degraded. It seems someone is preventing us from knowing that when sunrays hit discarded plastics wherever a great deal of carbon goes up in the atmosphere to join the billows earlier mentioned in feasting on the ozone layer.
To further understand beverage companies’ lack of commitment toward climate action, you only need to recognize that there has never been a single moment when Pepsi, Coca Cola, or even lesser companies like Uganda’s Riham ever halted their production to first ensure that the tonnes of plastics they have produced over a given period are first collected for recycling. They only assume some recycling company out there is busy cleaning after them.
Even recycling is not a solution; it’s more of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The process leads to the emission of even more carbon than is given off by the influence of the sun, yet still, less than 10% of the world’s plastics are recycled. Where is the remaining 90%? In the rising sea levels, increasing earth temperatures, and melting icebergs.
It is high time policymakers worldwide worked toward the return to glass packaging for soft drinks which, while being quite expensive, will challenge beverage producers to collect back their bottles (lest they make losses). All the better if certain incentives could be extended to companies and businesses that abstain from plastic packaging. Otherwise, we’re collectively waging a serious war against the climate, and against ourselves and our posterity in turn.
And to think that I am out to pick another plastic bottle of Mirinda Fruity.
ZEDDEKIA SSEKYONDA Uganda Christian University, MBChB III