10 things we learned about tackling plastic ocean waste
Earlier this year an NGO warned we could end up with ‘as much plastic in our oceans as fish’. Here is what the experts said in an online debate on plastic pollution.
This is just a summary, please read the full article on The Guardian
- We can’t keep up with waste management
More than 50% of ocean plastics are coming from rapidly developing geographies around the world, where population growth and increased plastics consumption is outpacing the capacity to manage waste.
- We need action from governments and businesses
Tackling ocean waste will require a range of different policies that drive manufacturer participation, combined with voluntary efforts by companies.
- It’s an economic as well as an environmental issue
We’re told of ocean plastic strangling seals and turtles swallowing it, but the mainstream media rarely frame the problem as an economic one.
- Designers and recyclers often feel helpless
Just designing a product with its end-of-life in mind could have a big impact, says Jenna Jambeck, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia. She says that “so many issues [are] caused downstream from not considering this point in a product’s life cycle”.
- There are global solutions to this global problem
One way to solve the end-of-life problem would be to make simple products, such as yoghurt pots and shampoo bottles, from a single material that is recyclable around the world, suggests Alexis Haas, director of sustainability at Adidas.
- There are also local solutions
An artisanal fishing village in Chile was left with no choice but to burn or discard its old fishing nets. In giving the community the resources and opportunity to return nets for recycling, the company says it has prevented waste, created jobs and captured a valuable material for its skateboards.
- We have to eliminate the ‘ick factor’
Shubhankar Ray, global brand director at G-Star RAW, says: “People buy what they desire in fashion, so eco-clothing needs to be cool and sexy to drive desire.”
- Labelling plastic bags like tobacco is not helpful
While Kneppers agrees that a lack of education is part of the problem, he believes that we would better engage consumers with positivity, by highlighting how small actions can protect the places we love.
- A ban might not be best
A ban isn’t practical or actionable. Ray suggests that it would be better to lobby policy makers to put plastic reduction and suitable alternatives on serious agendas.
- Together, we can take plastics off the market
“The problem we are facing is that plastic is simply the wrong material – it needs to be reinvented,” says Gutsch. “There is no need to use plastic straws, plastic utensils, plastic bottles, plastic bags … We can take these products off the market right away. By doing so, we show there is a movement happening, which motivates the research and development labs for material development.”