When eco is not really eco. 11 myths that harm environment

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

Do you wear eco-leather, travel by electric car, always take eco-goods and biodegradable bags in stores and live with a sense of accomplishment to nature? We have bad news for you. Not everything that is presented as a super-ecological trend is in fact such thing
20:37, 27 September 2021

Open source

I help the environment by buying things made from recycled materials

No. Recycled things create an additional resource load on the ecosystem.

For example, in mass markets, fabrics made from recycled pet bottles or "ocean plastic" are becoming popular. However, consumers do not think about the fact that the creation of such a product also needs to spend energy, water and other resources.

“The production, transportation and sale of new goods in any case creates a resource load on the ecosystem and pollutes the environment. To really reduce your ecological footprint, it is worth changing the approach to shopping: consume less and, if possible, reuse things that do not require additional processing (second-hand, vintage markets or other), "says the Eco Platform community in a comment for 112ua .tv.

However, this does not apply to old technology. It is a bad idea to use devices that were "born" 30 years ago. After all, they are more energy intensive. For example, a refrigerator from the 90s uses 70% more energy than a new model refrigerator.

It is better to give old equipment to special recycling centers.

Eco-leather is not only ethical, but also environmentally friendly

No. The production of eco-leather requires thousands of liters of water and significant energy resources.

How eco-leather is made: a layer of polyurethane with micropores is applied to a cotton or polyester fabric, forming a film (it has high wear resistance and frost resistance). At the same time, for the production of 1 kg of cotton, 20 thousand liters of water and significant energy resources are needed.

Responsible consumers will have to do an "ecological choice": do not buy goods made from real leather, because it is not ethical. And consciously treat goods made from eco-leather - the longer they last, the better for the environment.

Electric cars are friends of ecology

No. Electric cars are more environmentally friendly than conventional cars at the time of use (they do not pollute the air with exhaust gases). But as for the source of electricity for charging or disposing of parts of such a car, there is nothing to do with eco.

First, the electricity needed to charge a car comes from non-renewable sources.

"Electricity production (in particular in Ukraine) is mainly provided by the combustion of fossil fuels," says the Ecological Platform. "This is largely causing climate change, air pollution, and so on."

That is, in a global sense, in terms of the volume of greenhouse gases, the appearance of electric vehicles did not affect the situation: if with ordinary cars we emit greenhouse gases due to the combustion of gasoline or diesel, then with electric cars because of the generation of electricity. At least so far, companies have not switched to alternative energy sources.

And secondly, the battery of an electric car contains many toxic substances and, if not properly disposed of, can harm the environment. Electric vehicle lithium-ion batteries contain several hundred individual lithium-ion cells, each of which must be disassembled separately. Therefore, in many countries there are problems with the disposal of such a battery. And this despite the fact that it needs to be changed every 3-5 years.

"It is very difficult to get data on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries in the world, while the figure is about 5%. But in some parts of the world this figure is much lower," said Paul Anderson, co-director of the Birmingham Center for Strategic Elements and Materials.

Energy saving lamps are environmentally friendly

No. Tubes of energy saving lamps contain mercury vapors that can harm not only the environment, but also the user.

The use of energy-saving lamps has several significant advantages: they consume 30% less electricity, and they last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs. However, with direct contact with them, a person can be poisoned by mercury vapor. And if you throw such a lamp in the trash, poisonous substances will get into the water and soil.

It is worth finding a collection point for fluorescent lamps and taking the used ones there.

All paper is ecological

Cigarette butts completely decompose, because there is only paper and tobacco inside

No. Most cigarettes contain a filter that is made of plastic that is not recyclable or biodegradable. This plastic is called cellulose acetate.

Cigarette butts constitute about 30% of the litter found on coasts around the world. And scientists estimate that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away every year around the world, making them the most common form of plastic waste on the planet.

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“When exposed to sunlight or moisture, cigarette filters can break down into microplastics, which contain 7,000 chemicals that are subsequently leached into water or soil. Many of them are toxic, and at least 50 are known carcinogens (benzopyrene, formaldehyde, arsenic, cadmium, nicotine, benzene, as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (surfactants) and heavy metals ", says the NGO" Ukraine without garbage ".

In addition, getting into the stomach of animals, fish or birds, cigarette butts become the cause of their toxic poisoning.

Tea bags do not pollute the environment

No. Most tea bags contain up to 25% plastic.

The plastic polymer (polypropylene) in the tea bag hold the shape in hot liquid. Experts note: despite the fact that the amount of plastic contained in tea bags is minimal, it does great harm.

And first of all, it harms your health - toxic substances get into tea. Nothing will change from one such cup of tea. However, not if you constantly use tea bags (especially one bag for several times).

"These bags are not recyclable due to the fact that they contain plastic. The way out is to cut them, take the tea leaves and hand over the bag itself for burning," the NGO Ukraine Without Garbage notes.

Of course, for those who care about the environment, it is easier to buy not tea bags, but loose tea, and brew it in a teapot.

Disposable paper cups are made of paper

No. Most of these cups are covered with a special polyethylene film inside.

Thousands of Ukrainian establishments support the ecotrend by selling their drinks in paper (spoiler - not) cups with paper tubes. To dispel this myth, it is enough to play with a first grader in a fine arts lesson - roll a glass out of ordinary cardboard and pour hot tea into it. This can be dangerous, but illustratively, a cup cannot survive without a polyethylene film (as well as a tea bag cannot keep its shape).

"The processing of such cups is not easy. The Zmievska factory, where the tetrapak is processed, is gradually agreeing to take them, but the trouble with disposable cups is that the quality of the material from which they are made is usually low. That is, there is no guarantee that the film inside the cup is really LDPE4, and not some cheaper plastic, which behaves differently during processing (and in contact with hot drinks as well) ", noted in the NGO Ukraine without garbage.

There are also disposable starch cups that are more sustainable. However, their decomposition also requires special conditions - composting.

The eco-friendly to-go trend can be justified by using a reusable cup of your own. A large number of coffee shops even discounted drinks in your cup - a bonus for responsible consumption. There is another option: if you have forgotten such a cup, or you are uncomfortable with it, you can use disposable cups, provided that you give them to special recycling stations (thoroughly rinsing before that).

Plastic bags are the greatest evil

No. The biggest evil is not knowing how to handle packages after use.

"When it is indicated on a package that it is decomposing, a person thinks: I will throw it somewhere under a bush and there will be no harm to nature. However, even such packages are waste, and they must be handled accordingly. After all, biodegradable packages, or packages with marking Compostable, have their own form of decomposition, for which certain conditions must be met, "says Viktoria Norenko, head of the Green Bird project, in a comment to

Take biodegradable bags made from oxo-degradable polymers, for example. The first thing to realize is that oxo is no longer about ecology. Indeed, under the influence of light, oxygen and a certain temperature regime, such a package decomposes into many fragments of polyethylene. That is, from one "biological package", which was supposed to dissolve in nature, we get hundreds or even thousands of plastic pieces, the decomposition and decay of which takes years.

And what about paper bags, are they definitely more environmentally friendly than plastic ones? Not really. If we are talking about packages of "fresh" raw materials, then, in addition to the obvious disadvantage - the massive felling of trees, there are others, less obvious.

So, according to Greenpeace, the production of a paper bag is much more harmful than the production of a plastic one - 70% more harmful emissions enter the atmosphere, and the release of waste into water bodies increases 50 times. The paper bag dissolves also not without "surprises" - it emits methane (a gas that causes the formation of the greenhouse effect).

Why is that? The fact is that plastic bags, unlike paper ones, are durable. That is, a person who buys a new paper bag every time does much more harm to the environment than a person who uses the same plastic bag for several months (while sending used bags for recycling).

The ecotrend is justified by paper bags made of recycled cellulose or nano-paper with the addition of latex. The life cycle of such packages is much longer. The same applies to paper bags made from cardboard that has already been used.

Everything organic always decomposes without harm to nature

No. Due to improper disposal of organic waste, methane is emitted, which causes the formation of a greenhouse effect.

Eco-friendly organizations always point out that you need to sort your garbage. And responsible consumers do it. However, not all of them know that sorting organics into a separate plastic bag is not quite what ecology needs.

When organic matter in garbage bags, together with plastic, ends up in a landfill, without air access, decay processes begin with the release of methane, which subsequently heats up and explodes. And instead of becoming a valuable resource for soil, organic matter is causing landfill fires.

By the way, almost half of all waste is organic and food waste, 17% is paper and cardboard, and plastic is 12%.

Organic matter decomposes without harm and even with benefit to nature under the condition of composting. It is worth remembering that composting also has its own conditions. Fish and animal bones, dairy products and nutshells must not be composted in the container.

Eco-actions are in any case for the benefit of nature

Some myths have grown into real eco-actions, joining which a person believes in helping nature. Even in spite of the end result.

For example, it instills in itself the habit of taking shower quickly, because in this way it can save a significant amount of fresh water supplies. Of course, there is a sense in the economical consumption of such a resource as water, however, habits must be changed consistently - most of all fresh water is used not for human hygiene procedures, but for the needs of the animal husbandry industry.

"It takes as much water to make a single cow burger as a person can spend in two months of continuous shower. Therefore, switching to veganism is a more appropriate step if you are concerned about preserving the environment and, in particular, fresh water." say in the Environmental Platform community.

It is also erroneous to believe that deforestation can be compensated for by planting new trees. In fact, the forest, which is several decades old, and the young forest in different ways cope with their functions in the ecosystem.

Moreover, the Eco Platform community notes that forests that have naturally recovered after deforestation have much greater potential for biodiversity restoration and carbon sequestration than those that have been deliberately planted.


The recipe for eco-behavior is simple: it is important to develop critical thinking and test alternative products for environmental friendliness. Everyone should understand that any product or thing that he buys has its own form of decomposition. You can find out about this on the packaging or just google it.

Even the purchase of eco-goods is not a panacea if they end their lives by rotting in a landfill or swimming in the ocean. There are about a hundred waste processing plants and sorting stations in Ukraine.

Buy consciously and consume responsibly.

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