Picture this for a moment: 7 plastic bags on every meter of coastline around the world. That is the sad truth of how much plastic ends up in our oceans every year. I found an article from abcNews and found a section relevant to the topic at hand on how to reduce plastic pollution.
“There are currently 5 trillion pieces of plastic waste in the world’s oceans” according to The Ocean Cleanup, a project dedicated to ridding the ocean of waste.
Now here is a shocker. If plastic ends up in our oceans it affects both marine life and our food supply. Why you might ask? It’s simple logic; the amounts of toxic substances like PCB and pesticides from plastic substances is ingested by fish. Who eats the fish? People do!
What can we expect and do in the future?
In the years to come the plastic pollution problem will just get worse, unless we find alternatives. A key part of this solution is a Zero Waste strategy and includes reducing the use of disposable plastics. This means that we need manufacturers to design packaging that can easily be recycled. If manufacturers took the time to invest in facilities and programs to recycle plastics and reduce plastic pollution, it would contribute to the 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. The manufacturing process also contributes to the largest portion of pollution that contributes to environmental damage. Companies could reduce plastic pollution by creating a more Eco-friendlier manufacturing cycle and by doing so, greatly reduce emissions.
Zero Waste Protects Human and Ecosystem Health
South Africa still relies on burning fossil fuels to create energy. Not only does fossil fuels pollute our air and water, but it also plays a huge role in climate change. If South Africa could find an alternative way to use less fossil fuel-generated energy, we can create less pollution. One of the simplest ways to conserve energy and reduce air and water pollution is to recycle.
If we as South Africans contributed and planned to create less air and water pollution, the result would be beneficial for all South Africans. By making this change we could greatly reduce human health risks, from respiratory disease to cancer. It would contribute greatly to improve our ecosystem health by reducing acid rain and excessive nutrient build-up in waterways. If we could get to 75% recycling by 2030, we would reduce:
- Respiratory emissions by 45%
- Eutrophication emissions (excessive nutrient build-up in waterways) by 70%
- Toxic emissions by 60%
- Ecosystem toxic emissions by 90%
Zero waste help avoid polluting landfills and incinerators.
We all think of a landfill as just a place to dump our rubbish, and we don’t really think about the consequences when dumping on a landfill and a lot of it is plastic. I’m sure you are familiar with some of these hazardous air pollutants that are released on landfills:
If we could formulate a plan to reduce plastic pollution, it would minimize the risk of being exposed to these hazardous air pollutants can severely impact the health of nearby residents in the long-term.
Toxic chemicals that could cause cancer, respiratory problems and affect the endocrine system come from incinerators that releases toxic emissions. The emissions coming from incinerators are some of the most dangerous substances on the planet. They don’t break down in the environment, causes toxic build up in our bodies and is very harmful if inhaled.
We can prevent these impacts by investing in resource recovery facilities instead of using landfills and incinerators. As a result, we can strive to eliminate the very concept of trash.
Zero Waste supports Environmental Justice
Polluting industrial facilities include oil refineries, power plants, chemical manufacturing facilities, landfills and trash incinerators. Have you noticed that some of these facilities are so disproportionately located? And by disproportionately located I mean that these facilities are in small and low-income neighborhoods. The sad result is a lower quality of life and high levels of disease.
Adopting a Zero Waste lifestyle means justice for these communities and by reducing emissions and substituting for safer products, we can help them live a longer and happier life.
Until next time. Stay Greenish!