By Kimani Wiseman
The world is addicted to plastic. This addiction is crystal clear and it is very easy to find. Have a look at the condition of some of the beaches and rivers. Have a look in your garbage bin. Have a look in the gutters and in the streets. The addiction to plastic is staring us right in our eyes.
Single-use plastic is any plastic that is used once and is discarded, for example, plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic food wrappers. According to the United Nations, each year, an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean. This is equivalent to a full garbage truck dumped into the sea every minute. The article further states that 60 to 90% of the litter that accumulates on shorelines, the surface, and the seafloor is made up of plastic.
Around the world, one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Plastic is non-biodegradable, meaning that they remain in the environment for a very long time. When plastic enters the ocean, they are broken down by sunlight, wind, and wave action into “microplastics”.
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic less than 5 millimetres in size, which are worn down from larger plastics. Marine animals usually mistake microplastics for food. The micro blocks their digestive system, causing them to die. A dead whale that had washed up in the Philippines had 40kg (88lbs) of plastic bags inside its stomach. There were 16 rice sacks and “multiple shopping bags” in its stomach. This video of a plastic straw stuck in the lungs of a turtle sent shock waves around the world.
The blue economy is the overall contribution of the ocean to economy, the need to address the environmental and ecological sustainability of the ocean, and the ocean economy as a growth opportunity for both developed and developing countries. How are countries around the world going to achieve the blue economy when the ocean is being used as a landfill? There are some countries that have already started to put measures in place for reducing their “plastic footprint” while others are not doing enough. The blue economy would not be achieved globally if citizens of each country do not unite to reduce their “plastic footprint”. Here are some tips for alleviating plastic:
- In Europe, a company is mixing plastic pellets with asphalt to make stronger roads. This
- Purchase a reusable water bottle and carry it with you all the time. This would help to reduce plastic bottles in the environment.
- Paper straws can be used instead of plastic straws. In some cases, if you can avoid using a straw, this option would be even better.
- Some countries have already started to use cutleries made from bamboo to replace plastic cutleries. You can also keep some silverware at your office. This would reduce some of the plastic cutleries being used.
- When you are going to the beach always carry a bag with you and throw all your garbage in it, you should then discard that bag in a garbage bin. Leaving all your garbage at the beach would eventually end up in the ocean.
- A picture tells a thousand words. Murals can be used to highlight the effects of plastic in the ocean to help spread awareness.
- International coastal cleanup is celebrated in September. More persons should definitely take part in this activity to help to remove a lot of garbage from various beaches.
- Carry a reusable shopping bag with you when you go at the supermarket.
- More recycling should be done.
The ocean provides a livelihood for fisher folks, it provides us with seafood which we depend on for protein, and it also contributes significantly to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a lot of countries. When our house is dirty, we clean it, when our clothes are dirty, we wash them, why pollute the ocean? And what would you be doing to reduce your plastic footprint?