Happy World Earth Day 2018 – Ways to stop plastic pollution

Reading Time: 8 minutes

After watching the Earth Day video I couldn’t help wondering

“If 1 billion people are aware of the issue…imagine if that 1 billion people would donate 1 dollar each on World Earth Day… What could we do with all that money?”

Good question right? How much good can we do if we had that much money… Luckily a few possible answers offered themselves in form of recommended videos on youtube. Some were about interesting non-profit projects. Others about ways to create the change by starting with yourself. (You can find these videos at the end of the post!)

Since Earth Day this year is all about reducing the amount and impact of plastics…

Here are some promising sounding solutions to stop plastic pollution

1. Clean up the ocean (because the plastic there causes so much harm and seems to have a greater impact than the plastic in landfills). Over the last years I heard of several cool projects. They probably wouldn’t mind 1billion dollars to fund their non-profit projects. 🙂
  • The ocean clean-up project
    • This is a very cool idea a clever young man called Boyan Slat had about five years ago: The idea is to collect the garbage at one of the five concentration areas so-called ocean garbage patches.
    • Because of recurring currents these patches continue to grow, as the currents bring more and more garbage in. It therefore makes sense to start the clean up there.
    • How? Well they plan to put huge (1-2km long) u-shaped screens, so-called floaters, into the water. These floaters, build out of durable and recyclable materials, are slow moving and collect all the pastics that the current brings in, which then will be collected, shipped out and recycled if possible.
    • Have a look here to learn how exactly it works.The exciting part about this project it, that the developers estimate that they could clean up half the oceans in 5 years! And have set the goal to achieve this by 2050. That would be a huge success!
    • But first everything needs to be tested. The first trial floater will (after years of testing and perfecting) go into the water in mid 2018. This year! I’m looking forward to hear about their success, I’ve been checking out their process once or twice a year since I first heard about it.
  • A smaller scale clean up: 4 Ocean
    • The idea is that by purchasing one of their bracelets you can support their fishermen teams who clean up the ocean for a living instead of catching fish. The removal of one pound of trash can be supported by purchasing a bracelet.
    • It all started with two guys, Alex and Andrew, taking a surftrip in Bali. They were shocked into taking action after seeing the amount of plastic polluting the water. Locals would not do anything about the problem, despite facing it every day. Why? Because it was more important to get earn money through fishing to support their families than removing the plastic for free.
    • The solution is simple, if money is needed to support the action, then money must be made available through funding. Now the fishermen can get paid. And those shores will hopefully be clean again. In the two years since 4 Ocean started they removed a considerable amount of plastic and have over 150 employees worldwide cleaning the ocean and its shores.
    • I think it goes without saying that the bracelets are made of recyclable material and that most of the collected plastic will be recycled.
2. Tackling the problem before the plastic gets into the ocean:
  • Helping people to meet their basic needs and increasing awareness about plastic and recycling: Plastic bank
    • This project was also founded five years ago and comes from Vancouver Canada where David Katz and Co-founder Shaun Frankson started.
    • The idea is similar to 4Oceans idea. By employing locals to collect plastic they can provide them with enough money to cover their basic needs. While at the same time plastic is removed before it gets into our waterways and the ocean. The local people are usually rather poor people who appreciate the opportunity to receive a better income.
    • I’ve read some critique about using poor people for this. But let’s face it. Someone who is poor and can’t meet his/her basic needs, will always be in survival mode. Meaning, willing to do almost anything in order to be able to feed themselves and their kids. I doubt they have as much pride or ego as us better educated people. It is a luxery that only people who are higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I can only assume, but maybe they find pride in themselves for doing this job. They get educated about the plastic pollution problem after all. They could just as well take pride in being part of the solution. Or for reducing that ugly garbage that piles up everywhere in the slums they likely live in.
    • On a side note:

      There are many people around the world doing similar things. I’ve seen people in Germany walk from waste bin to waste bin, collecting bottles. It’s not rare either, you might see two or three of them within 30minutes in our city centre. For them the bottles are pure cash. They are actively shaping their destiny to survive.
      Besides there are so many others, who survive by cleaning bathrooms, killing animals or cutting up meat or fish in factories to make a living. And some who live of even worse jobs. It’s not just here where poor people are being used. (And I’m not meaning to say it is okay, but no one forced those guys to pick up the bottles! In general people do a lot when they are in survival mode, always hoping to get out of it by any means.)

    • You can watch David Katz’s TED talk about the project here. Though his fundamental idea is “turn off the tap instead of cleaning up the run offs spilling over the sink”, I would not call this ‘pulling the problem by its roots’. Still, it is a good way to do something about the problem on another level.

Last but not least: Removing the roots

3. There really is only one way to reduce plastic effectively
  • No, it is not called biodegradable plastic. 😉 
    • That stuff is a happy illusion to make us feel better and continue to contribute to consumerism and the comfortable life!)
    • Let’s remember: People have lived without plastic for thousands of years. And suddenly we can’t anymore? I admit the system is making it difficult to quit plastic completely. After all, it is such a convenient thing that found its way into just about any building in the world.
  • So the real solution to stop plastic pollution must come from us. We collectively are the roots, the main problem.
    • Once we manage to use it more wisely or even stop using plastic completely the demand for it will go down. A lower demand will result in a decreased production. Which then leads to less potential plastic going anywhere into our environment.
      And then, we only have to deal with what is already out there 😉
    • If you have come so far in reading this article (thanks!!) I want to encourage you to continue to care. Start by removing at least one plastic source out of your life!
    • Instead of listing all the things one could do, I’ll share two videos with you. They offer great ideas to make the first steps of reducing plastic pollution. I would say, they even go very far in providing insights that make an almost plastic-free life not look like such a difficult thing to do anymore.
    • Enough talking, here we go:
zero-waste-aiming-to-go-plastic-free-pyramid
How to reduce plastic? Recycling is ok, but can only go so far. Biodegradable plastic? Might not be any good at all because of its environmental footprint. The only real solution is to stop using and relying on it. (Credit: TEAL sustainably)

 

It’s a lot of information, but if you have time, take a look at the projects and feel free to share this post (or the links) with your friends and family!

Do you know of other cool non-profit projects with big dreams  and visions of a plastic-free world? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Read more about my World Earth Day resolutions on the next page!

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