The Fight With Plastic Pollution - Successes and Obstacles (AUS Edition)
Waste and pollution are problems that have escalated with growing rates in the past decades. It sounds like a cliché, but it happens right before our eyes. As one of the biggest pollutants, plastic plays significant role in the bigger picture - we can see plastic junk on the beaches, ocean costs, in the ocean, in the rivers, in the woods, fields, even on the streets around us. And we are talking about a global threats. Australia is no exception. The situation here is probably better than in developing countries, but still not good enough to stay calm and watch indifferently.
Plastic Pollution - The Bigger Picture
Here is the place where most people say: "Yeah, yeah, I know plastic is not good." But do we really know how exactly 'notgood' is plastic? We may know that plastic is among the most significant sources of pollution for the seas and oceans. But can you imagine this:
► Every year around 8 million metric tonnes go into the oceans, which is equivalent to 16 shopping bags full of plastic for every metre of coastline.
► By 2025 we will be putting enough plastic in the ocean to cover at least 5% of the earth’s entire surface in cling film each year.
And that's not everything. Plastic is not healthy for any living creature, including humans. Let's take for example plastic bottles. They are one of the top ten types of waste polluting beaches (in Australia and all around the world). Most of them contain Polychlorinated Biphenyls, known as PCB. PCBs have been found even in plankton - the lowest level of the marine food chain. Do you love sea food? On top of this, plastic bottles are designed for one time use. You may think that using the same bottle multiple times helps fighting plastic pollution but be aware that doing it can be harmful to your ownhealth. There are scientific proofs that glass bottles are much better containers to keep beverages (including water). In time, plastic bottles extract certain chemicals and substances which are toxic and definitely not good for anybody. Do you know what happens if you burn plastic? The smell itself can give you a clue … and so on and so on.
Can we Fight Plastic Pollution?
The answer is "yes". And luckily, more and more people get involved and interested in environmental problems. That gives us the power of the masses. Not everything is in the hands of politicians and men of power. Me and you, we could be considered ordinary citizens but the "ordinary citizens" have their tools, weapons and voices. Together we can make a difference.
For example, recycling is one of the most powerful weapons. It's a fact that cannot be denied. Nowadays people know more about recycling. In Australia there are many initiatives started by the government or local city councils. Recycling bins were only one of the first steps. In most areas there are hot recycling spots which everybody can easily find on the council's website (with maps and additional details). There are many courses and educational programs for children to learn more about recycling as well. Last year Sydney started a project where recycling machines give vouchers or bus thickets as a reward for recycling.
For junk to be recycled it needs first to be collected. It seems that we're doing good with that as well. There are hundreds of non-profit organisations and committees which organase volunteers for clean up activities. Here in Melbourne such events are not rare. Every week dozens, even hundreds of kilos of rubbish are been collected and removed from the beaches in the area.
We are not alone in this fight for sure. We can mention one much bigger project to prove that. Back in 2012 a Dutch boy presented a project for a system that lets oceans clean themselves. By June 2014, Ocean Clean Up Foundation (the foundation behind the project), had raised over US $2 million in more than 160 countries to fund it. Australia is among these countries,
This fight is a challenge. It takes efforts but it seems that we have our victories in the field. Are they enough? Maybe not … for now …
Defying the Obstacles
Although many companies and contractors support the fight with pollution, sometimes business interests are what stays on the way of better solutions. The first example I can think of are again, plastic bottles. Here is what I mean: Recently US House of Representatives removed the ban on bottled water sales introduced in several national parks and nature reserves. Behind this decision lays very sneaky reasons. Bottled water producers and providers want us to buy more plastic bottles because of the profits they make. For the public they present of course other reasons - "Cheap, zero kilojoule convenient hydration option", "public health and safety" , etc. And that's not only in the US. The situation in Australia is no different. We are encouraged to buy more plastic bottles with promises of health and safety. All this to cover the fact that plastic bottles are cheaper and easier to transport and … not so good for anybody. But it seems this doesn't matter.
Recycling itself is another example. Although many people are familiar with the topic, statistics show that 90% of the people would recycle more if it were made easier. Local waste removalists report that despite of recycling bins and all recycling initiatives, a lot of plastic is still being disposed of in landfills. Numbers say that we recycle less than 30% of our household junk when we are able to recycle up to 75%. Let's do a little math - if half of these 90% start recycling more, we can increase the percentage of recycled junk maybe twice or even more. Politicians work with statistics, it has to be easier for them.
It seems we are at war. World war. But this time we fight ourselves and our own waste. Several battles won't win the war but are a pretty good start. One project to clean the ocean, 10% more recyclers and so on. Step by step everything can be achieved.