Piecemeal Action Will Not Help Tackle Plastic Pollution, Only Massive Changes Can

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Even though we wish it to be true, dumping our trash into the oceans doesn’t simply make it vanish, especially if it is plastic pollution. instead, it stays there, poisoning the marine ecosystem, clogging the lungs and intestines of its inhabitants, from the small fish and ocean birds to the blue whale. It continues to accumulate over the water, a thick blanket of plastic soup. It finally comes back to us through the polluted food chain.  

Also read: Microplastic Pollution: The Biggest Culprits Are The Cars We Drive

An explicit message report from the United Nations has stated that most of our present action to eliminate plastic pollution in our oceans has been bits and pieces of tokenism. Retrieving plastic trash from the ocean is purely symbolic. The solution lies in stopping it from entering the oceans in the first place. Catching them in giant nets, or cleaning up the beach is all very camera-friendly, but doesn’t solve the enormous problem of plastic pollution.

The International Resource Panel report has laid on the table the innumerable complex challenges that will make us fall way short of our ambitious program to stop adding any more plastic to the oceans by 2050.

plastic pollution

Breaking the Plastic Wave, an SYSTEMIQ report, inputs by The Pew Charitable Trusts has said that the amount of plastic pollution in the oceans increases by 11 million metric tons every year. going by the latest plans of the world governments, and the commitments made by the mega-corporations, we will succeed in reducing plastic pollution by a mere 7% by the end of 2040. 

That would be a drop of less plastic in the ocean and would not make any dent on the mountains already dumped. Only an immediate and concerted effort can help make a systemic change in the total system.

Professor Steve Fletcher, a panel member of IPL, says that it is time that countries stop coming up with a piecemeal and stopgap solution that is only making the issue of plastic pollution more complex. Isolated action might have the weight of good intention behind it, but they are not able to address the enormous problem that needs the cooperation of all countries in the world to bring about a solution. 

plastic pollution

The problem of plastic pollution can only be tackled by the concerted efforts of every nation on earth, who first have to arrive at a common target before they start to control plastic pollution in the oceans.

Also read: Nurdles: The Unknown Toxic Plastic Pollutant That Is Overwhelming Marine Life

Steve Fletcher gives an example elaborating on the need for a more systematic approach. A country might go for recyclable plastic products, but if it lacks a system to collect and process the waste, the very purpose of the initiative is wasted. And if the recycled product does not compete favorably in costs with virgin plastic, the efforts will bear no fruit. It is such random forays that the Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy seeks to change into a single cohesive initiative.

The efforts to tackle plastic pollution have to be directed through a single master plan and not random initiatives in isolation. The experts realize that the need of the hour is some tough decisions that will be politically unpalatable for many governments. But they stress that any attempt to water down the plans will only lead to a total breakdown of any initiative to tackle plastic pollution.

A Slew Of Tough Measures To Rein In Plastic Pollution In Oceans By 2050

The first step is for all world leaders to agree on quantifiable measures. Such policy targets will have to be shaped up on a global scale but it is up to individual governments to implement them on the ground in their own country.

plastic pollution

The immediate need of the hour to tackle plastic pollution is to halt adding any more trash into the oceans. Efforts should be scaled up immediately and should have the full backing of the government in initiating local policies and seeing that they are implemented through enforceable measures.

There should be a concerted effort to move from linear plastic manufacture and consumption to the circular model. This can be achieved by isolating the waste, incentivizing the reuse of products, and making use of instruments that are based on the market. Such initiates will have a snowball effect as more people are incentivized enough to join in efforts.

Efforts are needed to support a circular economy for plastic that is regenerative and restorative by design. Society has to stop considering plastic as ‘waste’ and recognize it as a renewable resource that needs a proper system to dispose of them properly. In this system materials constantly flow through a tight loop system and are used multiple times and not discarded after the first use. Multiple-use increases the value of plastic and prevents it from being discarded from the system.

There has to be more research and education to fine-tune the plastic pollution policies and make them more effective. There has to be an immediate program that will independently evaluate and track the effectiveness of policies that will be required to arrive at the best solution at both an international, national, and regional levels.

plastic pollution

There should be an immediate clamp down on the production, and trade of plastic products at an international level. The system devised by developed nations of paying developing countries to take in their waste has to be immediately stopped as they rarely have the right infrastructure for waste management. This could compound the plastic pollution in such countries.

Finally, there has to be a more transparent regulation governing the international trade of plastics. It may be difficult times, but we still have a chance to change, something that we cannot say for climate change. We are killing our oceans by the amount of plastic pollution that we dump into the oceans. And by it, we are killing ourselves.

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