The primary environmental crisis today is the accelerating effect of CO2 emissions on climate change and global warming. To address this issue we need to put less CO2 into the atmosphere and we need to capture more carbon.
Plastic has a high carbon content and takes hundreds of years to biodegrade (a process that needs oxygen). That is why we don’t like it – little bits of plastic are getting everywhere and littering the world for hundreds of years to come.
There are vast empty caverns underground where we have in the past and continue to extract coal for fueling our power needs.
So surely part of our solution is to capture all our waste plastic, and put it underground – in the mines where we have extracted the coal. Having taken carbon out, we put carbon back.
This is potentially more powerful than recycling plastic, simply because recycling leaves the carbon that would have been used to make new plastic available for power production and CO2 emission.
It is also potentially more powerful than eliminating plastics and replacing with fast degrading packaging, particularly if the replacement packaging takes more energy to produce, or allows more product waste.
Finding a new use for disused coal mines could revitalize regions devastated (in the UK) by Thatcher.
We could use plastic recycling networks to gather the plastic, but we would need to public to fully engage with capturing their plastic and not allowing it to litter. A start would be to compressing all our plastic sheet waste in plastic bottles.