Worldwide plastic crisis
Despite being invented just over a century ago, plastic has been unsurpassed by any other man-made product on a global scale. Inevitably each year vast quantities of plastic are produced, amounting to a staggering 300 million tonnes, of which around 50% is for single use.
The rise of plastic packaging has been as a direct result of its ability to provide fit for purpose solutions in a wide range of applications from primary, secondary and tertiary packaging in product categories as diverse as food and electronic hardware.
Plastic in the oceans
As far back as 1975 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 6,350,000 Tonnes of garbage was being dumped into the ocean every year. The problem isn’t new to us. According by the WWF there are three main ways our plastic ends up in the oceans:
- Plastic we put in bins end up in landfill. As it is being transported it gets blown away to litter around drains. From there it enters the water system which ultimately ends up at the sea.
- General littering with much the same process as above. Rainwater and winds carry the plastics into streams and rivers and from there into our oceans.
- Products we flush down the drain – cotton buds, wet wipes etc. This is one area the UK Government introduced positive change by banning microbeads in rinse-off products but there are still many more that contribute.
The Ocean Clean up
In 2013, a non-profit organisation, The Ocean Clean Up, was founded by a young Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, and had a mission to clean up the great pacific garbage patch within five years. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean.
Boyan knew that using vessels and nets to clear the oceans would be costly and take an eternity, so he began looking into developing an innovative passive system, using the natural forces to catch and concentrate the plastic. With a floater that provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath. As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U system.
The Plastic Bank
Social plastic is a project started by the founders of The Plastic Bank, whose concept is to stop ocean plastic and reduce poverty. This is by means of monetizing plastic – turning it into a source of income for impoverished people. Plastic litter that is collected can be exchanged for cash or other goods, such as cooking fuel, or vouchers that pay for schooling or mobile phone charging. This project was established in Peru and currently operates in Haiti, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Also, their goal is to empower recycling ecosystems around the world and stops the flow of plastic into our oceans. All while helping people living in poverty build better futures.
The future for our oceans
Estimations state that there are 5 trillion individual pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans. From plastic flip-flops to shopping bags, this pollution poses a serious threat for marine animals, which often get trapped in the plastic packaging and suffocate or mistake the plastic items for food and ingest the toxins.
Eventually, steps are being taken from countries and companies as the plastic problem has hit crisis point. Funding is finally being given to experts and scientists to prevent the ticking time bomb threat to the ocean’s global marine life.
As quoted by Sir David Attenborough in the series of BBC Blue Planet “For years, we thought that the oceans were so vast and the inhabitants so infinitely numerous that nothing we could do could have an effect on the future of our oceans. Now we are wrong.”
Have you as a company in recent light of the scale of the issues surrounding plastic pollution worked on becoming more environmentally friendly? If you have then it may well be worth having a conversation to see if you can build in a R&D claim into your efforts.