War on plastic

The war on plastic: Have we already lost?

The war on plastic: Have we already lost?

We seem to be winning some battles but have we already lost the war? If one believes the pilot of a mini submarine the plastic waste is now lying on the bottom of the ocean. Apart from the environmental damage this is causing, the danger is that nano-plastic particles are now in the food chain. Mankind will reap the results of this for generations.

  • The war on plastic waste – especially single use plastic such as straws – is definitely gaining momentum. The BBC is running a series of programs on plastic waste. The story of the Bergen whale has gained massive international exposure.
  • Plasticus – a plastic whale – has just completed a tour of the UK resulting in unprecedented levels of public awareness.
  • The Volvo Ocean yacht Race has an entrant: Turn the Tide on Plastic: which is generating international awareness through sport.

SA’s retailers are joining together to consider banning single use plastic products. If this happens it will be the first time that retailers, rather than consumers, have taken the lead in making environmental changes.

Can SA take the global lead in banning single use plastic products?

If the pilot is correct however, what we see is only the plastic on the top of the ocean. The vast majority is now lying at the bottom where it will slowly break down into very small articles. These will enter the food chain, first into the sea life then bird life and finally into you and me. There is data that shows some humans are already ingesting plastic. Scientists agree that we do not know how an accumulation of nano plastic particles in the human body will affect our health but it all agree it cannot be healthy.

We recycle a large portion of SA’s plastics - 41.2% - which compares favourably with international statistics. But what of the other 58.2%? Ultimately it is ending up in a landfill, in the soil or in the sea.

What can we do to help? The long term goal must be to eradicate plastic in its present format altogether. In the short term we can refuse to accept or use any single use plastic item. What we do use we should use judiciously and ensure that it is recycled through a plastic or ewaste recycler. At the very least the plastic needs to be sent to a landfill where it can be contained.

This war may last longer than our life times but we are already in it so we had better start fighting.

Smart Waste

Image: David J / Flickr