A Systematic Approach to Closing the Loop on Ocean Plastic Pollution
Did you know that around 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually?
This is equal to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every second, of which most of these items are single-use disposable products such as plastic bottles, sachets, candy wrappers and plastic packaging waste.
This blatant lack of concern does not only result in the pollution of our oceans but also makes life a lot harder for the locals, whether they work at coastal resorts that cater to tourist, fishermen whose livelihood is at stake due to dwindling fish populations. The economic consequences of poor waste management are quite far-reaching. Therefore it is important to plan and implement proper waste management that will help combat ocean plastic pollution and save our planet.
So here are few steps by which we can create a close loop on ocean plastic pollution:
1. Product and Eco-Design
All plastic products should be designed and manufactured with an after-use idea in mind and with no plan of simply discarding the plastic after use. Innovative solutions should be developed such as new packaging designs that are easier to recycle and are more valuable on the secondary market as well.
2. Funding and Investment to Boost Eco-Design
The right investment can leverage both the private and public sector investment to support innovators and designers who target inefficiencies in the plastics sector and find more sustainable and eco-friendly solutions to reduce packaging waste.
3. Sustainable Sourcing
The cycling of materials should be the focus of innovation, but further research is required to understand the potential role of alternative feedstocks, for example bio-based plastics and their potential for carbon dioxide capture and other impacts both negative and positive.
4. New Business Models
Structural waste must be avoided as much as possible in all economic sectors. Producers need to think of selling goods to providing services or access to (rather than ownership of) goods where this can increase product durability and reduce material demand and waste from the manufacturing stage through to product end of life. Business models are based on reusable packaging.
5. Consumption-Based Measures
Take the correct consumption-based measures for both producers and citizens alike to de-materialize the plastics economy and decouple it from negative externalities by:
- Encouraging people to reduce their consumption of unnecessary and wasteful products by understanding the implications of the waste they produce.
- Most people are ready to accept policies and products that are designed to prevent plastic pollution. Policymakers can use this constructive civil society engagement to enhance their political leadership.
- Uniform labeling according to the law should be used to identify sustainable products.
- Small charges can have a strong effect on consumers, causing them to avoid polluting plastic products.
- Public authorities should implement in-house procurement guidelines to reduce ocean plastic waste and encourage the development of sustainable products and services.
Major leakages of plastic waste into the oceans are caused by poor waste management infrastructure all across the globe. The following factors are key to reducing the leakage of plastics into the environment:
- The separate waste collection makes recycling a convenient option for people.
- Direct investment in waste infrastructure is globally required to reduce the leakage of plastic and increase the rate of recovery.
- Plastic waste should not be exported for disposal or treatment. Countries which export plastic waste for recycling should assess and take into account the impacts of their trade.
- Surface runoff, rivers and sewage water are key pathways for marine litter, moving large amounts of material from land to sea. Timely preventative measures should be taken to improve the quality of freshwater treatment and management to reduce the transboundary flows of plastic.
- Appropriate waste infrastructure at ports can reduce the flow of plastic waste from entering the ocean.
- Plastic manufacturers should be made responsible for their products after the point of sale with extended producer responsibility.
- Cleanup activities are costly, ineffective and create an unhelpful solution that upstream measures are not necessary. The transfer of microplastics and other ocean plastics to the seabed means that surface water cleanup activities are unable to remove most of it and therefore not a cost-effective solution.
Erich Lawson is very passionate about the environment and is an advocate of effective recycling. He writes on a wide array of topics to inform readers on how modern recycling equipment can be used by industries to reduce monthly wastage bills and increase recycling revenue. You can learn more about environment saving techniques by visiting his blog on Compactor Management Company.
by Erich Lawson