Plastic Pollution

Understanding one of humanities biggest challenges.

Plastic pollution 

Plastic pollution is a MASSIVE issue facing our world, and it is an issue Go Well Consulting is particularly passionate about helping to solve.

If you’re not so informed on the issue of plastic pollution then we highly recommend you do some research or try watching one of the recommended documentaries or shorter videos below. The world needs you to know!

In short, plastic is a synthetic material made from petrochemicals that do not integrate back into natures natural cycle of grow, die and decay. Everything made by nature can return to nature in a relatively short time period. Synthetic materials either take much longer to integrate back into the Biosphere than nature can tolerate and therefore accumulate into huge hazardous quantities, or they don’t integrate/breakdown at all.

To put it bluntly, plastic doesn’t die.

Even if plastic breaks down (which will happen if left exposed to the natural elements of wind, rain, sunlight, waves), it simply breaks down into smaller pieces of synthetic material. It is still a toxic ‘man-made’ substance that causes chaos to natural ecosystems, especially in our oceans. These smaller pieces of plastic are known as Micro Plastics, and more and more research is emerging showing the full extent of the plastic pollution problem. Plastic has been discovered not only in our food chain (especially in seafood) but also in our drinking water!

“Eight MILLION TONS of plastic are dumped in the World’s oceans every year”. – National Geographic

 

“Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute”. – Plastic Oceans.org.

Let’s lead the way New Zealand! 

Plastic Pollution

All though recycling plastics is a better option than throwing it out the window, or into a landfill bin, recycling it will not turn it into a natural material that can be returned to the Biosphere.

In fact, plastics can only be recycled 1-7 times (depending on the type of plastic and what source of information you trust…) before it is of no use and will end up in a landfill or in the environment anyway. Further to that, there is a huge amount of resources required to collect, transport, sort, transport and eventually put through the recycling process which involves cleaning, shredding, transporting, and eventually reshaping back into a new product.

Burning it is not a good solution as that will release the carbon content of the plastic into the atmosphere (and the fight against global warming is all about reducing that), along with a bunch of other nasty chemicals. There are however some new technologies emerging that claim they incinerate plastic at such high heat (to convert to energy) that there are no emissions.

Although plastic pollution is causing devastating damage to ecosystems all over the globe and has found its way into our food chain and drinking water, it can’t be denied how convenient it has made our lives, and how integral it has become to the global economy.

This is why plastic is such a great (or terrible) example of the need for businesses and individuals to change their behaviours, create solutions, innovate alternatives, educate stakeholders and show leadership.

“Between USD $80 – $120 BILLION (or 95%) worth of plastic packaging is lost from the global economy every year, after just one use”. – The New Plastics Economy

“Globally humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute (yet) 91% of all plastic is not recycled”. – Forbes

The first place to start on eliminating plastic pollution is a behaviour change to stop using single-use plastics. Stop using the plastic in the first place Think straws, bottles, bags and other food packaging, as well as removing plastic microbeads from all products (they are most commonly found in health and beauty products such as exfoliating body wash and toothpaste). Why would we use a material that doesn’t biodegrade and is made from petrochemicals to create products that we use for mere minutes? That’s not good design.

A second step is to replace plastics with products made from plant material that will biodegrade (quickly) and will in no way contaminate soil, water, or compost. Many such materials are already available.

A third major action to end plastic pollution is to monetise plastic. Either positively or negatively reinforce behaviours related to the creation of plastic pollution. For example, a bottle deposit scheme that refunds consumers for returning the bottle, or a levy on plastic bottles to discourage their use. One of the fundamental reasons recycling rates of plastics are so low is that there is not a big enough market for recycled plastic products. This is influenced by the price of crude oil, the security of using virgin plastic (no risk of contamination as there is with recycled plastic), and the cost of the recycling process.

Overall, be mindful of your use of plastics. Do you have to use it? Can you replace it with another material? Can you reuse a plastic container/bottle/bag you already have? How can you stop being part of this massive problem and start being part of the solutions?

#stopbeingpartoftheproblem #bepartofthesolutions #plasticdoesntdie #thereisnoawaywithplastic

Recommended Watching 

To learn more about plastic pollution check out these documentaries.