Advocate for change. The problem of plastic in nature, particularly in our oceans, is a global crisis. The waste management piece of the puzzle is critical but tricky. Cutting back or even banning single-use straws would certainly help keep them out of our oceans. Many plastic products are single-use items that are designed to be thrown out, like water bottles or take out containers. I think we have to be ambitious, because the problem is so big.”. But microplastics also include bits of what were once larger items. Commit to changing your habits by reducing your use of disposable and single-use plastic items, reusing items and/or recycling them. Working alongside other groups, like Ocean Conservancy and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, WWF is helping herd the cats, aligning everyone toward concrete action. More than one million bags are used every minute. Once in the water, plastic debris never fully biodegrades. Plan ahead. Because they rely on their reputations, Bonini says, they’ve already got skin in the game: “One company executive said to us, ‘I don’t want to be the producer of branded garbage.’”. Meeting this goal will mean bringing together stakeholders with different priorities, goals, and points of view, says Simon. “The problem is that as a population we have continued to innovate and create new ways to use plastic—to the point that we are dependent on plastic in our everyday lives,” says Simon. In the US, even though we collect almost 100% of the most common type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET (your standard soda bottle), only about 30% is recycled. But, she says, there’s one huge advantage. Volunteer to pick up marine litter in your local community. We also need to ensure solutions don’t negatively impact the environment in other ways. Unlike some other kinds of waste, plastic doesnât decompose. “You can make something 100% recyclable, but if you don’t have a recycling facility, it just ends up as trash.”. Find out which plastics your town’s recycling system accepts, and make sure you recycle them. It may not be as easy as banning straws, but passing legislation around waste disposal can have enormous impact. Jack McAneny, director of sustainability at P&G, says the power of cross-value chain collaboration is key. Every minute, about a dump-truck load of plastic goes into the oceans, sullying beaches, hurting wildlife, and contaminating our food supply. And because nothing multiplies impact like collaboration, ReSource: Plastic connects companies, stakeholders, and governments so they can share discoveries and investments. This approach includes developing new technologies to recycle materials we never thought could be recycled, like diapers. Among the top 10 kinds of trash picked up during the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup were food wrappers, beverage bottles, grocery bags, straws, and take out containers, all made of plastic. And as it turns out, the issue of plastic overrunning our environment is a bit more complicated than straws. Worst case: It gets dumped into nature. The situation is worse in developing nations, where the global economy has brought a flood of plastic into places without adequate waste management. Globally, policies regulating waste disposal and recycling vary wildly—where they exist at all. How to help? Best-case scenario: Whatever plastic isn’t recycled goes to a landfill. These particles are known to collect harmful bacteria and chemical pollutants such as DDT and PCBs. NOAAâs Marine Debris Program (MDP) works to understand how plastics â and other marine debris â get into our ocean, how they can be removed, and how they can be kept from polluting our marine environment in the future. All these things get used and, eventually, thrown out. Donate unwanted plastic items such as furniture and dishware to local charities, or offer them online to your local freecycle program, instead of trashing them. “But we need more companies to get on board with investments and action.”. Stopping the flow of plastic means fixing a broken and fragmented system. Microplastics are the multi-colored pieces of plastic that can be found in a handful of sand on the beach or in the ocean. It’s a monumental task. And, once we’re done with it, it can be turned into something new. It gets tossed in the trash, it gets contaminated, or there aren’t recycling systems to handle it. Fact Sheet: Plastics in the Ocean The billions upon billions of items of plastic waste choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers and piling up on land is more than unsightly and harmful to plants and wildlife. Plastic is poisoning the ocean Once in the ocean, plastic remains there for hundreds – if not thousands – of years, killing marine creatures, spoiling our coastlines, and damaging livelihoods. Next, it helps the company implement those changes, providing expert advice along with a suite of tools and step-by-step guidance (including the publication No Plastic in Nature: A Practical Guide for Business Engagement). When the sink is flooding, you don’t start with the mop; you start by turning off the tap. We can do better! We also had a clear resolution requiring hardly any sacrifice: To save the environment, we just had to stop using plastic straws. Help NOAA understand and prevent marine debris by recording what you pick up with the Marine Debris Tracker. How did it all get there? Giving up plastic straws is a great start, but there’s so much more plastic that we consume. There are opportunities at every point in the plastic life cycle: We can make plastic from renewable resources, manufacture goods that are recyclable and require less plastic, consume less, and make sure as much plastic is recycled as possible. | Infographic Text. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Much of the plastic in the ocean is in the form of abandoned fishing nets. Aquatic animals are becoming trapped in fishing nets at an increasingly staggering rate, while thousands more are mistaking plastic for food. “And so all of that upstream investment to make the materials as recyclable and as high quality as possible is for naught.”, “There are some waste management companies that are starting to look at their role in the broader recycling system,” says Simon. ), WWF has set the audacious goal of No Plastic in Nature by 2030. How many plastic things can you see? World Wildlife Fund Inc. is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax ID number 52-1693387) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Most of the time plastic is thrown in the garbage. “I would make that same ask of a consumer.” (See sidebar below. In many ways these plastic ends into the ocean. News segments, think pieces, hot takes, and social media posts declared plastic straws public enemy number one. Plastic dumped into the ocean: As we know now the plastic is not getting recycled properly and just thrown away after single use of it. Reduce, reuse, recycle. The problem of plastic in nature, particularly in our oceans, is a global crisis. Through strategic and innovative collaborations, some companies are also actively engaging other sectors, including waste management. “It's reached this public-awareness tipping point,” says Sheila Bonini, senior vice president of private sector engagement at WWF. Governments can also help by streamlining and standardizing recycling rules. Eduardo Leal’s Plastic Sea raises awareness about plastic pollution by focusing on hundreds of pieces of plastic that wash ashore at a remote beach in Colombia. Yet eliminating all plastic from our lives is neither feasible nor desirable. For example Procter & Gamble is forming partnerships to advance the infrastructure needed to recycle a full range of materials, with hopes of accelerating further investment in scalable technologies. Of all the plastic ever made, half was made in the past 15 years. If 300 million metric tonnes of plastic waste are produced each year and 8 million metric tonnes end up in the ocean, this would mean that about 2.67% of plastic waste ends up in the ocean. ReSource helps companies who have already made ambitious plastic waste reduction commitments turn their aspirations into meaningful, measurable actions. Simon is a materials scientist who has worked with some of the world’s biggest corporations to find planet-friendly packaging solutions. One company’s efforts are great, but 100 of the world’s biggest companies together could prevent roughly 10 million metric tons of plastic waste.
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