With individual drive to lessen our impact on the environment on the rise, plastic has become a contentious talking point. While plastic is seen by some as an environmentally-friendly alternative to wool and other natural resources, it is, in fact, one of the most dangerous contributors to planetary pollution today. According to Plastic Pollution, international plastic consumption had risen to 297.5 million tons per year. Now, with environmental regulation at risk in several countries around the world, oceanic ecosystems are at even greater risk for contamination.
Evidence of Plastic Pollution
While many world leaders are still locked in debate about whether or not climate change is transforming the ecology of our planet, plastic pollution has made a notable impact on our oceans. As of 2018, the plastic island floating in the middle of the Pacific – the result of the improper disposal of plastic, which takes up to 1000 years to decompose – has grown to three times the size of France. Beyond this, even products which are touted as environmentally friendly, such as recycled clothes, release plastic microfibers into the air and further contribute to planetary pollution.
Sources of Plastic Pollution
Not only does the ever-increasing size of the plastic island reflect the general population’s inability to process the impact of its casual pollution, but it stands as a testament to governmental and corporate inaction on climate change. So long as this island persists, it remains a monument to both human denial and the death grip corporations like Nestle and Coke have on capitalist, consumer society. These corporations have perfected the creation of products “designed for the dump,” and so long as these products remain profitable, they do not seem inclined to stop.
2018’s banning plastic straws in restaurants isn’t going to make a dent in this worldwide pollution. Instead, wider-spread solutions paired with governmental reform will serve as the best and quickest way to attend to the plastic polluting our oceans. In the meanwhile, you can remove plastic water bottles from your home and filter your water instead. You can seek out co-oriented communities and push your governmental representatives to enact real change in environmental policies. Do what you can to keep the coastlines near you clear and put pressure on plastic manufacturers so that they understand the impact they’re having on oceanic ecosystems.
Avoiding Activist Burn Out
Most importantly, though, don’t burn yourself out. We live in trying politic times where it can feel as though your attention is needed everywhere. Much like the tide rises and falls, though, there are moments when great pressure on your part will be needed and times when simpler work will suffice. One person cannot reverse plastic pollution alone. In 2019 we must rely on each other in order to ensure that the plastic islands in the Pacific – and to a greater extent, climate change – remain issues at the forefront of the minds of our representatives, and that the consequences of each are widely known.
By Ali Prichard, written for Okeanos Foundation, 10 January 2019