Even the most off-hand perusal of the commercials that are blared to us day in and day out, on the TV or over the Internet, will make it clear that modern society encourages us to buy and consume as much as possible. All without taking the time to consider the impact that this could have on the world around us. When a product has been manufactured on the backs of exploitation, this fact is never emphasized by its marketers. Instead, we are encouraged to think about how fashionable we will look wearing the latest leather jacket or sweatshop-produced skinny jeans.
This attitude extends into the material that is used to wrap almost every product we buy: namely, various forms of plastic. Plastic is valued for its cheapness and convenience and is usually thrown away without a second thought after being utilized just once. This material is ubiquitous in our society – to the point where it is extremely hard to steer clear of it completely. The unfortunate consequence here is that all of this waste doesn’t just disappear. Rather, it is transported to landfills where it will sit for the next 1,000 years while it slowly breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. That is it will sit in a landfill if it doesn’t end up washed into the ocean. Considering that 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources, this is likely the case, and then suddenly our disposable convenience items start to spell disaster for marine life.
An estimated 270,000 tons of plastic debris are floating around on the surface of our oceans, but this represents only a minute fraction of the waste that has accumulated within them. 8.8 million tons of plastic make their way into the oceans every single year, and researchers have predicted that if our current rate of irresponsible disposal continues, there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050. Currently, 700 marine species are threatened with extinction because of our waste, including fish, sharks, whales, turtles, and sea birds.
Given the fact that coral reef systems alone sustain the livelihoods of 500 million people around the world while the oceans provide us land-dwellers with 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe, the collapse of oceanic ecosystems ought to be a matter of serious concern to us all.
The plastic debris that remains in landfills, instead of going to the oceans, is by no means safe either. A toxic substance called leachate, that typically forms when plastic begins the process of breaking down (a process that is extremely slow – it takes around 1,000 years), has found its way into local groundwater supplies. People who live near landfills tend to experience a variety of health problems, ranging from low birth weight to congenital defects and higher-than-usual rates of cancer.
No doubt about it: if our planet is to be given a fighting chance to sustain its growing population for years to come, it is vital for us to start questioning the narrative of casual, consequence-free consumerism that so often bombards us. Luckily, a growing number of eco-friendly companies have begun to do this already. The reusable bottle company Bobble brilliantly satirized commercials for bottled water last year, through their fake commercial called Once. If ads for consumerism told the truth, what would they look like? We’ve come up with a few ideas…
“Hey there, consumer! Forget about taking that durable cloth bag to the store. Grab yourself a flimsy, easily broken single-use plastic bag instead! Just think of the legacy you’ll be leaving behind…”
“Wondering what to do with all that waste you’ve just accumulated? Not to worry! Just dump it all in a nearby field, where it will cause no problems whatsoever…”
“So you want to learn how to reduce your impact on our planet, eh? Forget about it! Why bother? Live for today and never think about the future … especially when it will probably end up looking a lot like this.”
While efforts are being made to remove debris from the oceans, improve recycling systems, and innovate barriers to prevent plastic from getting into waterways, we can all take action in our daily lives to stop plastic waste at the source. Need a few tips on how to begin? Check out our articles, 10 Simple Actions That Just Might Save Our World’s Oceans From Plastic and 5 Innovative Ways to Use Unavoidable Plastics in Your Life.
For advice on how to start dismantling the damaging messages that are fed to us by rampant consumerism, and experience the freedom of knowing that less is more, check out: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself on the Road to Living With Less, or 10 Ways to Adopt a Zero-Waste Lifestyle.
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source and give marine life a fighting chance,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet.
If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
All Image Source: disfordog/Imgur