Plastic waste must be combated on all levels
By COO Berit Asmussen and Head of Communication Lisbeth Engbo, 22nd January 2018
We see it lying around on the beaches of Bali, on Hawaii and on the Danish North Sea coast. It is found in our tap water, fish, honey and it piles up in both the streets and ditches. There is no doubt about the fact that plastic has become one of the biggest problems of our time. In opposition to the problems concerning climate changes, the plastic problem is a highly visible challenge - and therefore, there are hardly any who disagrees with the fact that something must be done, and it must be done quickly before we end up drowning in plastic.
Sadly, the agreement ends when the question ‘what needs be done’ is discussed. In Plastic Change, we daily receive several inquiries from concerned people worldwide who ask us: what can we do?
However, when we assign them the little things they can do in their daily household to reduce the amount of plastic - e.g. quit using single-use straws, avoid cosmetics and care products that contain micro plastic or knit dishcloths of organic cotton - it is often met with contemptuous comments from business people, politicians and media people.
“The problem reaches far beyond dishcloths”. “It is car tires that is the number one emission source, everything else is knickknack”. Plastic in care products is a microscopic problem”. “It is far bigger initiatives that must be done”. Comments that can easily make the people - who actually want to make a difference -loose their breath. People who are able to make sense of the little initiatives, rather than confronting the industry and the politicians in order to change legislation and production. The result may very well turn out to be that regular people shrug and simply choose to continue their plastic consumption as if there were no problems - while the people that are suppose to be the so-called experts continue to disagree.
Little strokes fell great oaks
We agree, that there are numerous of sources of micro plastic in the ocean. You can talk all of them down to the size of nothing in the bigger picture, but you have to start somewhere. The people who one day stop using single-use straws and scrub products containing micro plastic or start knitting dishcloths, may very well be the people who make demands to the politicians about an action plan that will secure a sustainable consumption of plastics. Or who - with their pattern of consumption - forces the industry to rethink design and new products, which reduces the amount of plastic waste and promotes recycling.
While concerned and responsible consumers act in their daily life, we have to speed up the tempo on the structural changes that are very much needed in order to break the steep and increasing curve of plastic waste in the environment.
A call for action from all sides of the table
The UN calls plastic pollution “a common concern for humankind”, and encourages to activate the precautionary principle with specific and fast effort against plastic pollution - even if we do not yet have the sufficient knowledge of the sources, dispersion and effects. We need all decision makers, the industry, businesses, scientists and intermediaries to support the nice, knitting citizens in their fight to reduce the plastic waste in nature and in the environment - nationally, internationally and globally.
We need foresighted political efforts and a knowledge based regulation of the sources to plastic pollution. We must challenge the paradigm for trash and thus begin to view plastic as a resource - also in a growing circular economy. Plastic is a fantastic material - which, potentially, has a far higher recycling rate and value than what characterizes the life cycle of plastic today. We have to remember, that a higher recycling rate also contributes to solving the climate crisis. This is because plastic - with its present loss of material, especially in the form of combustion - in 2050 will make up 20-25 percentage of fossil oil demand and appertaining CO2 discharge.
With special thanks to all concerned citizens worldwide, who are ready to contribute any which way they can - with changed habits and less daily plastic waste - we, in Plastic Change, continue our work in order to make it less and less necessary for the individual to take responsibility for one of our time biggest environmental challenges.