Status of Oceans and Plastic Pollution
Organized at 3 PM GMT on 21st October, 2015
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QUICK SUMMARY & QUOTES
Madhumitha Rajendran has put together a quick summary of the panel and some of her favourite quotes from the panelists for you.
ANDREW ALMACK, Plastics for Change
Demand for recycled plastic has plummeted with falling global oil prices; waste pickers receive 60% less income; less waste pickers mean middle men are closing factories, thereby crippling waste management infrastructure.
- Plastics for change is focused on developing regions that lack tax revenue to support solid waste management programmes unlike North America. A lot of plastic entering the oceans is coming from these regions.
- There is no recycling in the rural side of India; it doesn’t work out as the value of plastic is not enough to cover the cost of transportation and overhead.
- Approach is focused on looking at the economics of recycling in these informal economies, where it’s not necessarily government sponsored waste collection.
- It relies on waste pickers, and the situation is difficult especially with the falling global oil prices; which led to more companies using virgin plastic instead of recycled plastic.
- Our approach: Mobile platform between waste pickers, middle men and buyers, by providing mutually beneficial trading service and building transparency and accountability in the entire supply chain to ensure people at the base get a fair rate.
- CO2 savings- much energy is saved when you replace use of virgin plastic pumped out of oil fields.
DIANNA COHEN, Plastic Pollution Coalition
Our concept of creating a coalition: How do we begin to raise awareness and connect different organizations and amplify our common message.
- Rather than attempting to clean it up, if we back up to land, it comes down to source reduction.
- On the most basic level, it is through education and awareness on individual action.
- Work on institutional level and how businesses are approaching policy and legislation.
- Plastic is a valuable material, yet we are developing continually obsolete material, including packaging.
- We need everybody on board at whatever level you are able to comprehend and approach this issue.
KATHERINE O’DEA, Save Our Shores
We were taught to carry back our trash, somewhere along we lost that, and we have to recreate that ethic.
- Work that 5 Gyres and other organizations are doing exposes the problem and demonstrates how much is actually out there in the gyres and what happens once it gets into the oceans. It is one of the best ways to build awareness.
- 3 themes: awareness building through education in schools, etc., advocacy through plastic bag ban, plastic straw and micro bead campaign, and supporting legislation, and direct action through beach cleanups using an army of volunteers daily.
- Collaborating with watershed, river and estuary organizations.
- Targeting corporates by sponsorship activities and letting employees see production and packaging end.
- Circular system of commerce across the globe is a new package of ideas- need of producer responsibility, stewardship programe, shift in business model and making them realise the value of materials considered waste.
- 11 Billion dollars of plastic per year is wasted, while in the USA alone, PET bottles have a recovery rate of 27%, which is unacceptable.
- With regard to the recent study by Ocean Conservancy, waste to energy can be considered a starting point, which is better than incineration or landfilling, but should not be an end goal.
- Separation of complex plastics from a mixture has to be pursued.
MARCUS ERIKSEN, 5 Gyres Institute
Three things to remember: Global distribution, ecosystem wide impacts and highly toxic materials
- We have published more papers about ocean plastic pollution issues in the last 4 years, than in the last 4 decades. Our work is turning the research into policy campaigns- microbeads, straws, plastic bags, foam trays at schools.
- Abundance of plastic waste: Large amounts of plastic waste gets into the ocean and the gyres are a place where the plastic is shred into smaller particles; think of the coastlines as generators and the ocean as the shredder that shreds plastic and redistributes micro-plastics worldwide.
- Toxicity: Micro plastics become sponges for toxins; scientists think we should label plastic in the ocean as hazardous substances, so it’s very toxic.
- Ecological impact: The marine food chain ingests these toxic and plastic materials worldwide.
- Address the problem through inland solutions- producer responsibility
- Divide between industry and conservational environmentalists, similar to divide between linear and circular economy.
- Infrastructure for incineration undermines circular economy recycling efforts, and efforts to change by design.