On April 22nd the world celebrated the 54th Earth Day. This year’s theme was ‘Planet vs Plastics’ – a demand that we act now to create a plastic-free future and safeguard the health of every living being upon our planet. The organisation Earth Day is committed “to end plastics for the sake of human and planetary health, demanding a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040″.

Let’s delve into some of the impacts of plastic pollution, and explore sustainable approaches to overcoming this crisis.

Plastic vs Planet

Across the globe, governments, organisations and individuals are taking action to reduce single-use plastic and transition to more eco-friendly materials. Studies have shown that people seldom think of water when they think of plastics, however, making a plastic water bottle requires six times as much water as the bottle itself contains.

Plastic waste is a critical issue that needs proper management. According to reports, over 300 million metric tons of plastics are produced in the world annually. In some developing countries, plastic pollution can be directly linked to health hazards including malaria, typhoid fever and other infections. Reports also show that in most countries across the Global South, more than 40% of household generated waste ends up in landfills, streets and drains, causing obstruction to the free flow of water.

Exploring Sustainable Approaches

Recycling is simple and requires minimal effort and time, yet it can have a big impact. The process of extracting new materials to create virgin plastic not only results in greenhouse gas emissions, but also consumes more energy compared to processing recycled materials. Studies indicate that deforestation and landfills account for an estimated 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually.

Whilst the problem of plastics requires a concerted global effort to address, some cities and countries have started making steps in the right direction.

Recently, the City of Toronto launched the single-use and take away items reduction strategy to tackle the waste management problems in the city. The city undertook further studies on the impacts of bioplastic products and packaging that may replace typical food and takeaway packaging and utensils.

Similarly, France has banned a variety of single-use plastic, and it is one of the countries pushing for stronger measures to tackle the problem at source – bringing down the amount of plastic produced in the first place, as well as what happens to it once it’s thrown away. Also, New Zealand is phasing out certain hard-to-recycle plastics and six single-use items and most recently, the UK has committed to introduce a ban on wet wipes containing plastic.

Making a difference

So, what can we do as individuals to reduce our plastic usage? There are simple actions we can all take to help make a difference, check out these simple ideas to get started: 

  • Consider cooking from scratch if you can – it cuts down on both packaging and food waste.
  • Avoid unnecessary packaging – if you can, shop at zero-waste refill stores, which avoid packaging altogether.
  • Glass is a great alternative to plastic. How about getting your milk delivered in retro glass bottles?
  • Did you know that some tea bags contain plastic? Look out for compostable varieties, or switch to loose-leaf tea to avoid this.

In the words of Wendell Berry, let’s remember that the “Earth is what we all have in common”.

Be Curious!

Featured image by Brian Yurasits via Unsplash.