By now, we should all realize that plastic production is this era’s greatest folly. While plastic has brought unparalleled convenience, it has also wrought great destruction upon our planet in a very short amount of time. How bad is it? In the last decade alone, we created more plastic than we did in the entire the 20th-century. Each year, we produce 300 million tons of plastic, yet 78 percent is never recycled. Unfortunately, most people who choose not to recycle those plastics aren’t upcycling them in creative ways — they end up in landfills and eventually, our waterways and oceans.
Plastics in the ocean can range from microscopic bits of broken down plastic called microplastics (there are more of these in the oceans than stars in our own galaxy) to plastic bags, straws, detergent containers, and single-use plastic bottles.
According to a recent survey of six soft drink brands (Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr. Pepper Snapple, and Nestlé) conducted by Greenpeace UK, more than two million tonnes of plastic bottles are produced each year and their total combined weight adds up to the approximate weight of 10,000 blue whales — which, by the way, are the largest species of whale in the ocean.
But that’s not even the full figure. Of the six companies surveyed, only five responded. Coca-Cola, the largest brand out of the sample survey, was silent on the subject of the amount of plastic they produce each year, meaning the actual figure is much higher.
In spite of the massive plastic problem and the supposed massive budgets of these large companies, they are using only 6.6 percent recycled plastic to make their bottles. At the moment, none of the companies surveyed have long-term plans to reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles they produce each year while a third of them have no plan for increasing their use of recycled plastic as packaging. Four out of the six companies do not consider the impact their goods have on the ocean in the production process. Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, weighed in on the findings: “It’s clear that if we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic. These companies need to take drastic action now.”
Earlier this year, the United Nations launched Clean Seas, an unprecedented campaign that asks the countries of the world to commit to reducing the amount of single-use plastic that they use. In a world where not only have the technology to produce plastic made from post-consumer recycled materials, but also the technology to make plastics that aren’t really plastic, there is no reason why these large companies cannot also be held accountable for what ends up in the oceans.
But until that time comes, we can still make a positive impact. By committing to reducing the amount of single-use plastics you use each day, you can help be part of the solution. Always remember to carry a reusable tote and when your budget allows, swap single-use plastics for reusable options like water bottles, travel mugs, and even straws. The time when the amount of new plastic these companies are allowed to produce may be far off, but change can always start with the individual.
For more ways you can get involved in the solution – check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Lead image source: PrajitBoonpa/Shutterstock