We know recycling is important. We know that plastics cause damage to our environment. And yet, there is still an overwhelming amount of plastic packaging flooding our ecosystem. So much, in fact, that by 2050, plastic will outweigh the number of fish in our oceans.
The time for clean-up is now.
According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, about 95 percent of plastic packaging is lost to the economy after single use. This accounts for $116–174 billion worth of plastic. The study also proposed a solution: setting up a new system to cut the amount of plastic tossed into the environment, as well as finding alternative methods to using crude oil and natural gas as raw materials in plastic production.
According to analysis by Project MainStream, 32 percent of the annual production of plastic is lost to “leakage”, most of which goes into the ocean, with 40 percent going into landfill and 14 per cent each collected for recycling or incinerated for energy. The share of leakage into the ocean is at least 8 million tonnes, equal to one garbage truck-full every minute, and research estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes in the ocean today.
That’s a lot of garbage.
On top of that, the amount of trash in the ocean is expected to increased. The report predicts that if nothing is done to help remedy the problem, the trash is expected to increase by “two truck-fulls per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.”
From The Washington Post:
Plastic production accounts for 6 percent of global oil consumption (a number that will hit 20 percent in 2050) and 1 percent of the global carbon budget (the maximum amount of emissions the world can produce to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius). In 2050, the report says, we’ll be spending 15 percent of our carbon budget on soda bottles, plastic grocery bags and the like.
Experts are suggesting that we start transforming how plastics make their way through the economy. It won’t make any difference for just one person to do their part; we all need to get our hands in the game. This includes consumer goods companies, businesses, plastic packaging producers, various organizations, policymakers, and citizens leaning in to make a positive contribution.
This level of pollution is detrimental to our natural environment. Not only does it cause $13 billion worth of damage to tourism, shipping, and fishing industries, but it also can threaten food security for those who source the majority of their foods from fishing and marine life.
While this issue is of the upmost importance, the report ended with a note of optimism. The Post continues:
And the World Economic Forum report, though not quite so sunny, suggests that there are ways to offset all this plastic we’re making and discarding. Countries can implement incentives to collect waste and recycle it, use more efficient or reusable packaging and improve infrastructure so that less trash slips through the system and into the seas.
In order for this to happen, of course, we’re all going to have to get involved.
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com.