Groundbreaking Ways To #BeatPlasticPollution!
Today is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is dedicated to beating plastic pollution.
Plastic is definitely a worthy opponent. Over the last few decades, plastic pollution has spread like wildfire.
It’s estimated that each year we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic waste. Now, that may sound like an unbelievable amount, but if you take a look at every item you use throughout the day, you’d be surprised by just how much plastic is part of our lives.
But, what was once a brilliant invention is now plaguing our oceans and wilderness areas.
With pollution levels set to increase, by 2040 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.
The Impacts of Plastic Waste on Our Planet
Plastic waste has unleashed a host of devastating impacts on our planet, leaving no corner untouched. Every piece of plastic that has ever been created is still on our planet today, apart from what has been burned. On average, we only recycle about 9% of all plastic, leaving the rest to seep into our oceans and ecosystems.
Plastic never goes away, it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces known as micro and nano plastics, which despite their tiny size, are just as harmful.
Shocking statistics illustrate the gravity of this crisis: each year, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way into our oceans.
This is equivalent to dumping one garbage truck’s worth of plastic every minute.
This marine pollution is having devastating impacts on marine wildlife and is responsible for endangering over 600 marine species. Marine animals often mistake plastic for food or become entangled in it, leading to injury, suffocation, and sadly death.
Microplastics have infiltrated our food chain, with studies revealing that humans ingest an average of 50,000 microplastic particles annually. Researchers are still studying the full impacts of microplastic on human health, but it has been linked to an increased risk of inflammation, respiratory diseases and cancer.
Beyond the ocean, terrestrial habitats suffer too, as plastic waste chokes wildlife habitats, disrupts ecosystems, and hinders natural processes.
The consequences of plastic waste are undeniable. It’s time to break free from this synthetic stranglehold and restore our natural world.
Plastic and the Climate Crisis
The plastic crisis and climate crisis are toxically interconnected.
Plastic pollution is closely connected to the climate crisis, intertwining their detrimental impacts on our planet.
The link between the two lies in the life cycle of plastic, from its production to its disposal.
Firstly, the production of plastic heavily relies on fossil fuels, primarily derived from oil and gas. The extraction, refining, and processing of these fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming and climate change.
It is estimated that around 4% of global oil production is used for plastic production. As plastic demand continues to rise, so does our dependence on fossil fuels, exacerbating the climate crisis.
Plastic waste management also poses significant challenges. Improper disposal and inefficient recycling methods result in plastic waste accumulating in landfills or finding its way into our environment.
When plastic breaks down over time, it releases greenhouse gases, including methane, which is a significant contributor to climate change. The incineration of plastic waste also releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, further worsening air quality and contributing to climate change.
The relationship between plastic pollution and the climate crisis is even further amplified by the destruction of critical ecosystems and the disruption of natural carbon sinks. Plastic pollution impacts marine ecosystems, harming coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests, which act as vital carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. By damaging these ecosystems, plastic pollution diminishes their ability to mitigate climate change.
Plastic debris in the ocean contributes to the reduction of sunlight penetration into the water, impacting phytoplankton and other primary producers that play a crucial role in carbon dioxide absorption through photosynthesis. This disruption in the marine food chain and carbon cycle has far-reaching consequences for climate regulation, meaning that the ocean is able to absorb less carbon dioxide, causing more to escape into the Earth’s atmosphere.
What Are We Doing to Fight Plastic Pollution?
It’s indisputable that plastic is threatening the survival of our planet. But, there are so many groundbreaking solutions to this crisis that are changing the world!
In honour of World Environment Day, we wanted to highlight some of the most innovative solutions and mitigation strategies being used to fight the pollution problem right now.
Bioplastics: Nature-inspired Alternatives
One innovative solution gaining momentum is the development of bioplastics.
Unlike traditional plastics derived from fossil fuels, bioplastics are made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, sugarcane, or algae. These eco-friendly alternatives are biodegradable or compostable, minimizing the environmental impact of plastic waste.
Bioplastics can be categorized into two main types: biodegradable and bio-based plastics.
Biodegradable plastics are designed to break down naturally through biological processes, into simpler compounds like water, carbon dioxide, and biomass.
These plastics are a promising solution to reducing the accumulation of plastic waste in landfills and ecosystems.
Bio-based plastics, also known as bioplastics, are made from renewable resources instead of fossil fuels. These resources include cornstarch, sugarcane, cellulose, and other plant-based materials. The production of bio-based plastics emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to conventional plastics, reducing their carbon footprint.
Bio-based plastics can be processed similarly to traditional plastics, making them compatible with existing manufacturing processes, which makes them an excellent sustainable swap.
Cellulose in Cosmetics: A Natural Solution
In recent years, the beauty and cosmetics industry has recognized the need to address plastic pollution and reduce its environmental impact.
Plastic was a common component in many beauty products in the form of microbeads (microscopic plastic particles).
Cellulose is a natural polymer found in the cell walls of plants, making it a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to plastic microbeads and other synthetic ingredients commonly used in personal care products.
By incorporating cellulose into cosmetics, such as exfoliators, face scrubs, and body washes, manufacturers can create eco-friendly products that offer all of the same benefits without causing harm to the environment.
Cellulose-derived ingredients, often sourced from renewable plant materials like wood pulp or cotton fibres, provide a natural and biocompatible option for enhancing product texture, stability, and functionality. They can also help reduce the reliance on fossil fuel-based ingredients and minimize plastic waste throughout the product lifecycle.
Circular Economy: Redefining Waste
The concept of a circular economy challenges our consumer patterns and the “take-make-dispose” model we’ve become so accustomed to by promoting a closed-loop system for plastic products.
This means that instead of discarding plastic after use, recycling, reusing, and regenerating plastic is prioritized. By designing products with recyclability in mind, implementing efficient recycling infrastructure, and encouraging consumer participation, we can transform plastic waste into valuable resources.
Embracing a circular economy enables us to minimize the production of new plastic and keep existing plastics in circulation, significantly reducing plastic pollution.
We don’t need to create new plastic when we can find ways to reuse the plastic we have already created, proving once again that the most sustainable option is always the one you already have!
This approach has also inspired incredible creativity and companies are now creating groundbreaking products from recycled plastic – from shoes to sunglasses and even rainjackets!
Ocean Cleanup: Taking Action at the Source
Innovative initiatives like The Ocean Cleanup Project tackle plastic pollution head-on by deploying advanced technologies to remove plastic waste from our oceans. These systems utilize floating barriers and currents to concentrate and collect plastic debris, preventing further harm to marine life.
By intercepting plastic pollution at its source, these solutions play a critical role in cleaning up our oceans and raising awareness about the importance of responsible waste management.
Eco Bricking: Transforming Plastic Waste into Building Blocks for Change
Eco-bricking is an innovative and community-driven solution that tackles plastic pollution by transforming plastic waste into functional building blocks.
The process involves cleaning and drying plastic waste, such as wrappers, bags, and packaging materials, before stuffing them into plastic bottles. The tightly packed eco bricks become solid and durable, capable of withstanding pressure and serving as building blocks for various structures.
Eco bricks offer multiple environmental benefits. By repurposing non-recyclable plastic waste, they prevent it from ending up in landfills, oceans, or incinerators, reducing the overall environmental impact. Eco bricks also minimize the need for conventional building materials such as bricks, blocks, or concrete, which require energy-intensive manufacturing processes and contribute to carbon emissions.
Communities that adopt eco-bricking practices can utilize the eco-bricks for construction projects such as garden walls, benches, or even full-scale structures like classrooms or community buildings.
Eco-bricking serves as a powerful reminder that plastic waste can be transformed into a valuable resource when approached with ingenuity and collective effort!
Plastic Roads: Paving the Way to a Sustainable Infrastructure
Plastic roads, also known as plastic-paved roads, have emerged as a sustainable solution that reduces plastic waste while offering several advantages over conventional asphalt roads.
The process involves incorporating shredded or melted plastic waste into bitumen, a sticky and viscous binder used in road construction. The plastic waste acts as a reinforcing agent, enhancing the durability and flexibility of the road surface. The resulting mixture is then used as a binding material for constructing roads and pavements.
By incorporating plastic waste into road construction, the lifespan of the plastic is extended, effectively diverting it from the waste stream. These roads have also shown improved resistance to wear and tear, making them more durable than traditional asphalt roads, making them an efficient, eco-friendly alternative!
A Plastic-Free Future
It is undeniable that plastic has become an inseparable part of our lives. It permeates our daily routines and countless products we rely on.
However, while plastic may be present in our present, it doesn’t have to take over our future.
The fight against plastic pollution demands innovative and holistic solutions that go beyond simple awareness and recycling efforts. By exploring natural alternatives like bioplastics and plant-based products and embracing creative ways of reusing, recycling and regenerating the plastic we have already created, to facilitate a more circular approach to plastic, we can make plastic waste a thing of the past and create a sustainable future for us all.
Leaving a Plastic-Free Legacy
We’re at a critical turning point. We have to take action to turn the tide on plastic waste.
With our new Leaving a Legacy app, it’s easier than ever before to tackle issues like the plastic crisis. Not only will you be able to connect with a global community of like-minded individuals working to combat issues like this and clean up our planet, but you’ll also have free access to invaluable resources like how to organise community clean-ups, letter templates to write to MPs and organisations about the plastic crisis (and so many other important issues), and the ability to shop for a range of ethically produced, plastic-free products from our Ethical Alley!
Sign up below to pre-subscribe to gain exclusive early access to the app and start leaving your legacy!