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The Problem With Plastics And Our Oceans

climate action

And how you can contribute to making it better.

There are more microplastics in our oceans than there are stars in our galaxy — 500 times more.
We use tons of plastic. It is in everything, from packaging to foam cushions, to the dashboard of the car. An enormous amount of it ends up in the ocean. Plastic is made of toxic chemicals like phthalates (pronounced as thah-lates), flame retardants, bisphenol A (BPA). As the plastic breaks down more toxins adhere. Floating toxic microplastics are often ingested by marine life, which is then consumed by us.
  • 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year.
  • 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone.
  • 1 in 3 marine mammal species get found entangled in litter.
  • 70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats and 15% lands on our beaches.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (largest trash site) located in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is twice the surface area of Texas.
  • 500 marine locations are now recorded as dead zones globally, currently the size of the United Kingdom’s surface.
  • By the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans (by weight).
Initiated in 2011 as a local initiative of the Western Metropolitan Regional Council in Western Australia, the Plastic Free July challenge rapidly grew into a global movement engaging over 250 million people in more than 175 countries around the world.
The goal is to challenge people to reduce single-use of plastics and to encourage sustainable habits every day.
Plastic Free Foundation provides resources and ideas to help people reduce single-use of plastic waste at home, work, school, events; for business, community and local governments.

What are the world leaders doing about it?

Launched in October 2018 with over 250 signatories, The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment now unites more than 400 organizations behind a common vision of a circular economy for plastics, in which plastics never become waste. They will work to eliminate the plastic items we don’t need; innovate so all plastics we do need are designed to be safely reused, recycled, or composted; and circulate everything we use to keep it in the economy and out of the environment.

What can you do about it?

You can refuse to single-use plastics in July and beyond.

  1. Audit your consumption Not just the days or weeks before July, any time of the year is the best time to audit your plastic consumption. Look at the items you regularly purchase. Look at the items around in your room, in your home, on your work desk. Look at the items that use the most plastics. Do a life cycle assessment of these items. Is there something that you can buy in bulk? Is there an alternative to those plastics?
  2. Research for alternatives We have heard it zillion times by now — use reusable shopping bags, cutlery, coffee cups, bottles, straws, kitchen towels, menstrual cups, dryer balls, lunch boxes, and so on. The question to ask yourself here is — Have I chosen to use a reusable version of the items I use every day? If not, then why have I not? Find out the local stores promoting zero waste, ethical and sustainable products, sustainable packaging options, Bring Your Own Containers (BYOC) program. * I carry my containers to Bulkbarn and refill them.
  3. Remember to Refuse When the cashier at a grocery store asks you for the number of plastic bags you need, say None! (Remember to go prepared with reusable bags). When you order a drink in a restaurant, refuse the plastic straw. When you are at home and you order food online, refuse the cutlery. * For the first two days, my tiffin service lady packed my meals in a single-use plastic container. Thereupon I called her up to explain my reasons to refuse the single-use plastics. Now my meals come in reusable lunch boxes.
  4. Start the conversation Talk about #PlasticFreeJuly with your partner, children, parents, friends, neighbours, colleagues. Tell your grocery store cashier about it. Post it on your social media accounts. Start a conversation.
  5. Remember new habits take time to establish It takes a while to establish new habits. You cannot go from zero to a hundred in a day or a week. Take one step at a time. Sometimes it can be frustrating. Be proud of yourself. The key to lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first — identify yourself as a person who chooses to live a sustainable lifestyle or any tag that comforts and motivates you. Essential is for you to stay committed to the path.
Being a part of Plastic Free July you will find alternatives and practices that can become new habits forever.

Being green is more than just buying ‘eco’. It is an unshakable commitment to a sustainable lifestyle.

 

This article was originally published by Samiksha Rane, Medium.com

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