It’s no wonder why plastic changed the world when you think of all the uses it is suitable for. As a material, there is none more common or used than plastic and this should be taken into consideration when talking about plastics in the ocean.
Due to plastic being so utilised in various forms, there is an unfathomable quantity of it. According to a report by Science Advances, since the 1950s the amount of plastic produced globally is approximately 8,3 billion tons.
It’s a staggering figure and certainly one that can cause all sorts of wonderment for a minute. The amount itself is simply an indicator of how plastic has a very firm grip on the material and manufacturing industry.
Also, according to the report, 9% of the estimated 8,3 billion tons of plastic has been recycled and 12% was incinerated. Needless to say, there certainly is room for improvement regardless.
Plastic problem or a human problem?
The biggest problem surrounding plastics has to do with recycling or lack thereof. Seeing plastic getting recklessly spread around is a sure sign of human negligence. A trait that has caused much irreversible damage throughout the years.
In essence, we do have a human problem at our hands because plastic does not end up polluting our surroundings totally on its own.
Three times more plastic pollution in the ocean?
This is the dreaded possible scenario if nothing changes from the current status quo. Should we fail to react, the annual volume of plastic entering the ocean will reach new heights. The waste amount is going to almost triple in size, from 11m tonnes in 2016 to 29m tonnes in 2040 according to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
At this point of the conversation arises the question regarding the answer to all of this. What is the single solution to resolving plastic pollution and who is going to come up with it?
There is no one true answer but many different solutions
Essentially, it’s about changing our ways and making the right decision whenever the situation requires it. There are simple solutions and complex ones that require significant financial aid and a diverse approach to this problem from the powers that be.
The simplest solutions are very common, such as eliminating avoidable plastic use and focusing more on reusing and recycling. On the other hand, a truly systematic change is required and pushing towards a circular economy is crucial in order to prevent plastic pollution from gaining more ground (and water).
One can’t overstate the importance of recycling and taking advantage of recycled materials. Apart from saving energy and waste from landfills and incinerators, recycling prevents plastic materials from ending up in our waters. Keeping products in circulation is a single solution out of many, but a very effective one.
Technology exists today that can drastically reduce plastic flow into the ocean
This should not come as surprise to anyone following this important issue. The solutions regarding plastic pollution in the ocean have already been developed. In fact, according to the report by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, with the help of today’s advancements, we can reduce plastic flow into the ocean by about 80% by 2040.
As previously mentioned, a systematic change is in order. This means improved waste collection, designing more recyclable products, increased recycling, building better recycling facilities for example.
Switching away from single-use culture and shifting the focus on easy-to-recycle bioplastics is a big difference-maker. Reducing the manufacturing of wasteful plastics that are difficult to recycle is a must for the plastics industry.
Near-zero plastic leakage is possible
The amount of effort, financial aid, and determination required from businesses, consumers, and governments is demanding to put it mildly but achievable. The required system-wide changes according to the PEW report won’t come overnight. The price tag is also approximately a hefty $600 billion in order to achieve near-zero leakage by 2040.
A rapid progression unfortunately is not possible due to existing conditions that involve many moving factors, but luckily the technology exists and when there is a will, there is a way. A substantial shift towards near-zero plastic leakage will take years, which is undeniable. However, the important part right now is for all sides and parties involved to start and keep the process alive moving forward.