Advice for solving plastic pollution
Full-length article and recording
Managing Plastic Waste and Mitigating the Garbage Patches
Thanks to the Earth Engineering Center for making this knowledge sharing possible
Katrina Mitchell (Co-founder, be Waste Wise)
What final words of advice can you offer regarding working towards a solution to plastic pollution?
Dr. Bill Francis (Algalita): What I hope to tell people is that we want to convey a message of hope. There are solutions out there. Some are cultural, some are from policy makers, some are from each individual making personal choices and some are from stakeholders getting together, sitting at a table and agreeing to work together to solve these problems. It’s not all doom and gloom. The more all of us can encourage people to work on solutions and to believe that “we can make a difference” (the quicker) we will find a way out of this. If we can put a man on the moon and send rovers to mars, we can solve plastic pollution. We just need to keep working on it and dedicate ourselves to it.
Beth Terry (Plastic Free book): I think it is a complicated issue. But each of us can start looking at our own personal plastic footprint right now and ask ourselves “what little change could I make right now and what changes can I make in the future?”. When we go to the store, we should ask ourselves where did this come from and where is it going to go. Is this particular thing that I’m about to buy, something that actually makes me happy? Questioning our consumption, but also realizing that this problem is systemic, it is bigger than any one person. It is important for us to look at our own responsibility in this issue, but then step out of ourselves and get involved in community actions as well as consumer actions on a bigger level.
One of the things I have on my website is the “Show Your Plastic Challenge” where people can collect their plastic waste for a week or more, upload and answer questions about it to figure out how much they are actually using. I think that is a really cool way to start just to see what your personal plastic footprint is. But also realized that it is not only your responsibility, it is all of our responsibility and how we can be a positive influence for other people.
Dr. Nicholas Mallos (Ocean Conservancy): In terms of final takeaways, ocean conservancy in the past 27 years has been running the International Coastal cleanup. While the cleanup is an extraordinary effort and we applaud their tremendous volunteer turnout. Now we have to recognize that cleanups are a starting points and not an endpoint. The cleanup is the first piece. For so long we have been looking from the beach sea work for solutions when in reality the solutions lie from the beach and the trash can and even further upstream.
So, as I noted earlier we all have a role to play. We need more science, but that does not mean we should be constrained to take action now. Industry has a very big role to play and when you start shifting that burden of proof from us as individual consumers to industry to demonstrate that the items they are putting in to market place are safe not only through their existing life cycles but now through the end of life cycle and that’s ultimately if these end up in the ocean.
And to point Bill’s note, that it is not all gloom and doom. I think it is a fantastic take away because we need to recognize that plastic pollution is not an ocean problem at the end of the day, but it is a people problem. That means all of us have a role to play, we can all be part of the solution and it can start with each of us today.
Thank you so much for having me to participate today. It has been a tremendous conversation.
Book: Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (buying options)
Websites: Plastic Pollution Coalition;