Do not just stop using plastics, ban them

Every worm, every insect, every animal is working for the ecological well-being of the planet. Only we humans, who claim to be the most intelligent species here, are not doing that.

Over 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons are floating in the oceans according to scientific studies.

Plankton, crucially important to life on the planet, is being overtaken by plastic. They are one of the most important organisms on this planet. Their ability to utilise the sun’s rays means they are fundamental in the earth’s global productivity and produce nearly 50% of the global oxygen as a by-product. Plankton form the base of the marine food web but they are being annihilated by plastic.

The very body that you carry right now, it has been millions of bodies in the past, the soil going through every form of life.

The UN Environment Assembly is putting together a “political declaration on pollution,” but we need action more than words at this point.

A high-level meeting is taking place this week in Nairobi among heads of state and environment ministers at the UN Environment Assembly. The topic of discussion is plastic waste, a problem that is plaguing every nation on Earth, especially those with coastlines where plastic tends to accumulate, thanks to winds and tides.

The problem has become so big that it’s impossible to ignore any longer. With the equivalent of one truckload of plastic trash being dumped in the world’s oceans every minute, and consumption expected to rise significantly over the next few years, plastic waste management is an urgent issue.

A political declaration, paired with “voluntary commitments by governments” and “individual commitments to take personal action”? Give me a break. As if that is going to stem the flow of plastic into the world’s oceans!

Enough with the toothless jargon. We need decisive, aggressive action. We know that disposable plastics have few redeeming qualities, if any (outside of healthcare professions, which I consider a separate category). I’m talking about convenience packaging — food containers, to-go cups, cutlery, water bottles, soda bottles, cotton swabs, straws, cosmetics tubes, grocery bags, etc. — things we could do perfectly well without, if only we cared enough to put in the effort.

These add little lasting value to our lives, and there is only one way to address the problem of their existence: Ban them.

A broad, sweeping international ban on all of the above would be a major jolt to everyone, but it would force companies, governments, and consumers to seek alternatives — many of which already exist. It would be an incentive for scientists and inventors to come up with new, creative packaging ideas (like edible packaging).

Here are a few examples of what’s already being done and could be replicated on a greater scale. Look at the ingenious idea that Freiburg, Germany, came up with — a reusable coffee cup that can be dropped off at any participating location. Look at the province of Ontario’s deposit system for wine and beer bottles and the paper bags in which all their goods are packed; it’s impossible to get a plastic bag at any of their stores.

Look at Bulk Barn’s new policy throughout Canada and how it now allows shoppers to bring their own containers.

If this is the change that governments would like to see, then why not take the most direct, effective route? We are running out of time, as studies have shown. Plastic microfibres have saturated the seas. Marine wildlife is choking on plastic garbage. Everyone’s favorite beach is littered with waste. Americans alone use enough straws on a daily basis to wrap around the Earth 2.5 times. This is insanity.

Recycling plastic invites manufacturers and packagers to produce more and more plastic. Instead of solving the problem, recycling makes the problem worse.

Most plastic is only reprocessed once before it goes to a landfill.When referring to plastic “downcycling” is a more accurate term than “recycling”.

When we collect and remanufacture plastic, we are only delaying its disposal. The final destination for all plastic is either a landfill, where it doesn’t decompose, or an incinerator…”

Or it ends up in oceans, lakes and rivers where it destroys ecosystems and kills wildlife.

Only 7-15% of plastic bags make it to recyclers. Stewardship Ontario reported a 7.2% recovery rate for plastic film in 2013 while the City of Toronto said that 15.3% of plastic bags are recycled.

The plastics industry manufactures plastic products but doesn’t take full responsibility for clean-up either monetarily or practically. Rather, they invite residents to recycle and to join in and pick up litter on park clean-up days.

The plastics industry only contributes a percentage of the costs associated with the disposal and recycling of plastic bags. Taxpayers are on the hook to cover most of the costs.

The environment ministers come away from the UN meeting, announcing that plastic bags, bottles, and straws are no longer allowed anywhere, that every grocery and culinary establishment and homeowner will have to figure out alternatives. This process of adaptation could easily be aided by municipal governments, whose garbage collection and recycling costs would decrease. Instead they’ll leave it open-ended, encouraging people to care, but that’s already been proven not to work.

All we can do is continue to chip away at it on an individual and community level, realizing that every time we shop with reusable jars and bags, there’s a chance it will inspire a witness to do so as well. And we can fight for policy changes, working with schools to ban straws and disposable drink bottles, with town councils to get rid of Styrofoam, or local coffee shops to adopt reusable cups.

The boundless dimensions of existence is denied to those who remain within the limitations of logic.

Ecology is no longer the preserve of the environmentally – oriented elite. It has become the business of everyone – it has become a fight for survival.

Even if the world doesn’t happen the way it has to be, at least your thoughts and emotions should.The further we move away from nature, the further we move away from our own nature.

Image Source: iStock

by Israt Yasmin, The Blogging Connection