Let’s be honest, plastics are easy to manufacture and they have brought innumerable benefits to the development of our society (i.e. food safety, transportation, construction and medicine). Nowadays, plastics have an important role in our global economy. However, we’ve got to a point where they have become worryingly common: at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean every year – which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute.
According to the recent study “The New Plastics Economy” published by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation; if no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.
Also, current estimates suggest that there are over 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).
In a few words: plastic production has spiraled out of control. It has not only invaded every aspect of our homes and businesses, but also our environment!
And this has negative economic impacts. Our current linear economy is based on the “take, make, dispose” trend. This method of production does not make sense in a world of finite resources. As stated in this report, 95% of single-use plastic packaging is lost to the economy, which in money terms comprises an amount of 80-120 billion USD annually. The basic principle of a circular economy is that materials never become waste; they re-enter the economy (an infographic explaining this is below).
It’s clear that we are quite far from implementing such resource management systems. But while we ought to focus our efforts on pushing sustainable economic practices, it is also important to recognise the situation we are in: we consumers must improve our reduction habits. We as buyers can make simple changes today to reduce the amount of waste we produce. Start carrying cloth bags when you go shopping, give up plastic bottles and bring a refillable bottle everywhere, refuse excess packaging avoiding fruits and vegetables that come in packages and make a sea turtle happy next time you visit the pub: say no to straws!
Remember: the best way to reduce plastic waste is to not produce it in the first place.