Aren’t all of us guilty of using plastic in some way or the other. It has become such an indispensable part of our lives that we don’t even notice it anymore. Plastic, in some form, might be inevitable for our existence such as the phone/laptop that we’re reading this post on. It’s how we make our living, working on this piece of plastic day in and day out. But, do we ever pause and realise how a material invented to ease our lives is fast becoming a threat to it?
The growth of plastic production has outpaced the production of any other manufactured material in the recent times. The same features that make plastic such an optimal choice for users: durability and resistance to degradation have made it impossible for the planet to assimilate it naturally. As of 2017, the world was producing over 300 metric tonnes of plastic annually. About 80% of this ends up as landfills or in our precious waters as a pollutant. Ocean Plastic has been declared a Planetary Crisis by the United Nations. The first ever attempt to measure all plastic ever mass produced was conducted as recently as 2017 because can you imagine having to dive deep into the oceans not to see the beautiful corals but to punch in how many water bottles are ironically ending up there?!
NOW why is plastic harmful though? What’s all the hue and cry about?
Like an uninvited guest, it never leaves Plastic was invented as a material supposed to last forever, however, a third of it is being discarded after single use. Do you not buy new pet bottles in pretty colours every other summer for the aesthetics of it or sometimes because they genuinely deteriorated in quality after usage? Our planet is incapable of making it vanish it into thin air like it can do for food waste.
Why don’t we love our Marine life anymore? Over 100 million marine turtles are killed each year due to plastic debris in the oceans because plastic looks like Jellyfish to them which is more appetizing than the phytoplankton they are supposed to eat. Marine litter harms more than 600 species. So, what we still love our land animals? NO. Cows on Indian streets consume plastic bags from the community dumpsters that eventually leads to a blockage of their stomachs leading to a painful death. What about the air animals? Over million seabirds die each year due to accidental plastic consumption. If this doesn’t bother us then maybe finding out that the plastic breaks down into tiny pieces that are consumed by fish and those fish are ultimately consumed by all us pescatarians definitely should.
Click this link to see what a trash free water body is capable of.
It is TOXIC and a trash magnet
The chemicals in plastic are oily poisons that repel water and stick themselves to other petroleum-based objects like other plastic debris. It is an infinite trap! Also, the toxic chemicals that leach out of plastics enter our blood and cause cancers, birth defects, endocrine disruptions, impaired immunity to name a few ailments.
Contamination: The most obvious one!
The chemicals from plastics dumped in the landfills seep out to the groundwater level and eventually to rivers and lakes contributing to the shortage of clean drinking or even usable water. It may also be contaminating the air we breathe. Some plastic gets converted into fertilizers at the sewage treatment plants and after it dries out, it may get picked up by wind and blown out.
LATEST FAVOURABLE DEVELOPMENTS
On 5th April 2018, McDonalds outdid itself in terms of popularity and adoration by general public when it announced that it will be phasing out plastic straws and replacing them with environment friendly paper ones starting in May in the UK. Countries like Morocco have completely banned the use of plastic bags since 2016 and have seized around 420 tons since the ban.
One man’s Plastic is another man’s Money: Plastic Bank was recently created by David Katz who is trying to revolutionize how we view trash by enabling the exchange of plastic for money, items or Blockchain secure digital tokens. He’s hitting two birds with one stone by simultaneously reducing ocean plastic and poverty. Who knew plastic could be a currency? Find out more.
More and more ventures such as Bakey’s edible cutlery (Self Explanatory, right?) are coming up with innovating ways to do their fair share in elimination of plastic.
WHAT CAN WE DO AT AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL?
By being a bit more environmentally conscience in our day to day lives and incorporating the following habits, we can do our bit:
• Reuse shopping bags and prefer to always bring your own instead of getting a new one at the counter.
• If we are a bit better off economically, we can replace some of our daily use items such as plastic toothbrushes with wooden/bamboo ones, discard plastic water bottles altogether and stick to other degradable alternatives
• Reduce the consumption of straw. In fact, we can easily eliminate it. If not, glass/steel straws are a new thing we must all transition to.
• Volunteer for cleaning drives that take place at your local level quite frequently. These will not only give you a sense of accomplishment but would also be a way you give back to the planet for giving you life.
• Buy some items from bulk bins. Take your own containers to your supermarkets and buy from bulk bins, not only saving a huge amount of money but also eliminate the unnecessary plastic packaging. Some Inspiration here.
• Recycle whenever possible. Find out places around you that would help you recycle your plastic waste and turn it into something more useful. Read about Ecobirdy here. Can we bring such an initiative to our country?
WHAT CAN ENTREPRENEURS DO TO BUILD GREAT BUSINESSES, WHILE SOLVING THIS MEANINGFUL PROBLEM
Entrepreneurs need good ideas to work for. Waste management is not only a great and big opportunity, its less competitive and more useful to our species and the planet. It can really Change or Save the world.
•Trading business Entrepreneurs can consider building trading network of collecting and selling plastic waste. This can create employment opportunities for many, as well as reduce the plastic dumping.
• Use technology to segregate plastic from landfills, sea, and other dumping areas. Entrepreneurs can use latest and the greatest research available to identify technology driven solutions that can be scaled up to segregate plastic from other biodegradable waste material. This alone can help in managing the segregated waste better.
• Use biotechnology / chemistry etc. to decompose plastic better There are several global experiments going on to convert plastic into reusable material like oil and other chemical compounds without harming the planet. Such solutions could be scaled into large impactful businesses.
• And many more
SOME OTHER INSPIRATIONS
Some interesting people are doing really cool things in other parts of the world.
• Check out how this incredible woman fits her trash from 4 years in a Mason Jar
• This genius got a 100 People to stop sucking for a week
• This great dude is ‘Working Out’ for a cause.