In the ideal world, the ultimate solution to end the problem of plastic pollution would be a worldwide ban on plastics altogether, therefore completely eliminating the chance of any plastic entering the ocean or inland waterways. This is, of course, not realistic. Plastic is utilised because of its convenience and practicality of use, and in reality, the harm caused by plastics would not be nearly so severe if all recyclable material was recycled, and otherwise, everything was disposed of properly. Like I said before, this is just not realistic. In fact, the inherent durability of plastic is what makes it an even bigger issue to the environment, a lot of it takes centuries to break down, and some never does.
While there are efforts to make current plastics more ‘environmentally friendly’, a lot more can be done.
Think beyond plastic bags and water bottles, what about the plastic cups, plates bowls and plastic disposable cutlery (…not to mention straws!)? Why are they necessary? What’s their real impact? Well, did you know roughly 10 million plastic straws used a day in Australia? 500 million straws a day in the US? One million plastic cups are discarded around the world every single minute? That’s probably at least two million by the time you read this post.
There is no reason why any of those things can’t be made of biodegradable, eco friendly material. Some countries around the world have already figured this out, and France is one of them. France has set in place a ban on single use plastic bags coming into place this year, and is imposing a ban on all disposable cutlery, plates and cups by 2020. The rest of the world needs to follow suit, but of course it’s not always that easy. There is a lot of money and big industries tied up with plastic and plastic products and biodegradable options are generally more expensive. Although, if all plastics were banned, companies would essentially be forced to come up with alternative materials from which to craft products. An expensive process, no doubt, but eventually companies would have to experiment with ways to make durable, eco friendly materials and products with a minimal environmental impact as cheap as possible to maximize their profits, ultimately lowering the price of biodegradable or eco-friendly products.
Another solution would be to impose a plastic tax, not just on plastic bags, but on all disposable plastics. If the tax was heavy enough, if would have the same effect as the ban in that for risk of losing business altogether due to reduced profit, companies would search for more eco friendly materials to base their products off to reduce the tax. Taxing plastic bags around the world has shown an enormous reduction in plastic bag usage, but its not enough. The tax really needs to be higher, and cover more plastic products. The problem with introducing a tax is that no one likes a new tax. No one wants to support the idea of paying more, even if it is for the benefit of the environment. The potential of a plastic tax extends further than just reducing the amount of plastic consumed: imagine what could be done with the revenue. The revenue from the tax (in the ideal world) could be used to fund numerous environmental projects, help clean up some of the existing plastic in the ocean and even subsidise environmentally friendly products.
As a society we have become so accustomed to our patterns of consumption that no one really thinks about the true impact of their actions. After all, that bottle of water you brought yesterday, and that take away coffee you had this morning… they have no impact right? They have no wider global effect right? That’s the attitude that needs to be changed to create real change in the world. It starts here, with campaigns like this. Small changes which lead to bigger changes, precedents which one day the world will follow.