The oceans are constantly providing us with all we need; food, jobs, inspiration and of course, oxygen. It also helps in regulating the climate. But with all these vital roles that the ocean play, we still treat the ocean like its one enormous dumping ground. Every minute, a garbage truck worth of plastic ends up in the ocean. By the time you’re done reading this, another truck-full would have joined it. The good news is that this is one problem that can be solved. And while we might be overdue, it’s better to start now than never.
Pieces of plastic cover the beach in Capetown, South Africa. © Maleen / Marine Photobank
Here are four essential steps to help solve the ocean’s plastic problem:
Most of us use a large amount of single-use plastic items such as plastic cups, straws, plates, plastic bags, packaging, and cutlery. If you’re serious about cleaning up the ocean, then you must put an end to the use of such plastics. More countries are now imposing a ban on disposable plastic bags and plastics or establishing a concrete target for the reduction of plastic consumption and waste. Before we can start seeing the effects of this ban on plastics, the effort will need to be scaled up so that the global consumption of plastic goes down. Why not do your part by refusing to use these products. When you go shopping, bring your own reusable bag or cloth tote, and recycle whenever possible.
In the last 50 years, the production of plastic around the globe has doubled. The top plastic manufacturing is planning to increase plastic production by almost 30% in the next five years. In the 1970s, the average plastic consumption per capita was 2kg. That figure has increased to 43kg today. All of this is affecting the world adversely. Instead of increasing the production of plastics, companies should develop alternatives to non-degradable plastics. In addition, the organizations responsible for the larger bulk of plastic wastes should be a target with producer liability arrangements and specific industry agreements as well as requirements for handling, collecting and reuse of waste and broken plastic equipment.
A good number of plastics in use today are gotten from oil making it a source of pollution and climate emission. The percentage of renewable plastic in Norway is 0.5. Even knowing the effects of fossil plastic, it is still cheaper to buy and make than renewable plastic. One way Governments can help the ocean preservation efforts is to consider implementing a fee or tax on fossil plastics. The fees will help to make recyclable plastic cheaper than fossil plastic.
A lot of the plastic waste in the ocean comes from developing countries. The rapid population growth coupled with the rising middle class means plastic consumption increases faster than the capacity to handle said plastic waste. And as a result, much of the excess is dumped in the sea. Indonesia and China are examples of some of the countries that produce the most plastic waste. International aid programs should be established to develop recycling and waste management infrastructure.
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