Recently, I sat down for a podcast episode with Tim Silverwood, avid surfer, environmentalist and CEO of Take 3, who you might have seen featured in the documentary Blue. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, our conversation was incredibly eye-opening and insightful. Since recording the podcast, I’ve often found myself ruminating over our conversation, so I wanted to write this blog post to follow up what we spoke about with some practical tips to empower you to make a change and be a part of the solution.
In the podcast, we spoke about Tim’s initiative Take 3 for the Sea, which encourages people across the world to pick up 3 pieces of plastic and place them in a recycling bin every time they visit a beach. Participants are then encouraged to share a photo of their plastic bounty on social media with the hashtag #take3forthesea. This super achievable initiative has yielded incredible results: Tim told me that as a result of this project, more than 10 million pieces of plastic are picked up every year. This just goes to show how a small, collective effort can easily make such a big difference.
On a day to day basis, Take 3 is now focusing on educating communities and schools about what is at stake if we continue on this trajectory of consumption, and more importantly, what can be done about it. If you too want to help but don’t really know where to start, this blog post is for you. I’ll be going through some easy tips for you to implement into your daily life that will help our eco-system heal and thrive.
But before we jump into potential solutions, let’s talk about our plastic problem.
When plastics were first invented back in the 1930s, they were revolutionary. They made life easier, faster, cheaper, efficient, and more hygienic. Ironically, plastics were initially seen as an eco-friendly solution: wood, metal, stone and tusks could be preserved because, for the first time in history, humans could create new materials. Derived from petroleum or natural gas, plastics were hailed as the materials that would preserve forests, mountains and animals. Natural resources could be preserved while humans advanced, unconstrained by the limits of nature.
Unfortunately, as we all know, plastic turned out to be far from an eco holy-grail. Fast forward to now, and our planet is drowning in plastic. Every year, more than 320 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide of which only 11% is currently recycled. Since the 1950s when plastic production was ramped up, we have accumulated a staggering 6.9 billion tonnes of plastic waste, 90.5% of which has never been recycled. Since plastics are hard to recycle and practically take centuries to degrade, the wide majority of those 320 million tons either end up in a landfill, where they release methane and pollute our soil, are dumped in the ocean where they break down into microplastics and are ingested by fish, or are burned in an incinerator and release dioxins in the air. To make matters worse, plastics that enter the ocean become increasingly toxic by adsorbing oily pollutants on their surface. When plastic is ingested by ocean species, they are also ingesting these toxins, which are then transferred up in food chains – and are eaten by humans who consume fish. The situation has now reached a critical point: 8 million tonnes of garbage are entering the ocean each year and if something isn’t done to reverse this, estimates suggest that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
While this is all incredibly dreary, the great thing is that, unlike many environmental issues, we actually know what we can do to fix this plastic crisis. Although these solutions take time, effort and money, they are achievable, and they all start with individuals taking action to be a part of the solution. So, here are 7 things you can do to help:
The bottom line is that with a little joint effort, we can all make positive strides towards more sustainable patterns of consumption. If you’re inspired to learn more about this issue, make sure you listen to the podcast with Tim Silverwood and check out the documentary Blue. Educate yourself and others about this issue and spread the word!
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