Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution Countdown to April 22

I’m Done! (with disposable plastic)

How do you make a lasting change in your behavior? How do you take a desire to be and do better and turn it into action?

In the past months, you may have been exposed to powerful information and imagery, showing the drastic tolls that plastic pollution is having on our environment, our health, and the health of the other organisms that we share the planet with.

You may have even gone to the effort of finding out ways you can stop contributing to the problem, by refusing plastic straws and shopping bags, or by purchasing clothing with natural fibers instead of plastic fabrics that release microscopic plastic fibers into the water system.

But even though you are aware of the problem and taking some action, you may still not be living up to your own expectations. You still consume disposable plastic too readily and occasionally dispose of it in a less than environmentally friendly way.

We know that giving up plastics is difficult! It happens to all of us. Many of us at Earth Day Network have been realizing with close introspection, that we aren’t reducing our plastic pollution footprint as much as we would like to be. So, what can we do?

We have realized that a blanket commitment to reduce our consumption of plastics does not work. There are way too many different plastic items, and the best way to reduce our consumption is to think about them one by one.

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And then pledge to reduce your consumption of each one by a specific amount!

That’s why Earth Day Network has produced the Plastic Pollution Footprint Calculator and Planner. This tool not only allows you to calculate how many plastics items you consume and discard in a year, but it also lets you set a goal for how much you would like to reduce your consumption by, from each category of disposable plastic.

Once you have visualized your ideal amount of plastic reduction, you can submit it as a pledge to ensure that you hold yourself accountable. You can print your pledge, so you can keep those numbers and make sure you live up to your goals.

A resolution such as the one we are inviting to make for Earth Day will become a reality if you embrace being aware and thinking about your pledge every time you use or are about to purchase a plastic item.

Invite a friend or a family member to take the pledge with you and share the solutions that you are testing and the progress you are making with them. You can also challenge them to make an equally ambitious pledge and keep track of your progress together!!

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The best way to make sure you stick to your goals is by clearly articulating them and then publicly proclaiming your intention to stick with them through to the finish. We all have habits and routines that are difficult to break.

If no one knows that you plan to stop using plastic straws, no one will know when you start slipping up and help you remember your commitment.

Earth Day Network wants to make it easier for you to commit to reducing your plastic pollution footprint. We want to help you set your goals and then see them through.

Ending Plastic Pollution is a group effort. It will only happen if we all know that we are working together to come up with every solution we can.

We will reduce our consumption much more if we know that we are part of a community that is striving together to change our habits and behaviors. You will be joining a global movement of billions of people all doing the same thing. This will make a difference!!

If you can’t make a pledge yet because you don’t know how to reduce your own contribution to plastic pollution, we have collected the information you need to get motivated and get acting to End Plastic Pollution. Download our Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit and use the Calculator.

Help the planet, help yourself, and take the Pledge!


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Fact Sheet: How Much Disposable Plastic We Use

The billions upon billions of items of plastic waste choking our oceans, lakes, and rivers and piling up on land is more than unsightly and harmful to plants and wildlife.

The following 10 facts shed light on how plastic is proving dangerous to our planet, health, and wildlife. To learn more about the threat and impact of plastic pollution and get tips to reduce your plastic consumption, download our Plastic Pollution Primer and Toolkit and use our Plastic Pollution Calculator today!

FACT #1 Over 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016! That is up from about 300 billion only a decade ago.
FACT #2 About one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe, that’s nearly 2 million every minute!
FACT #3 More than half a million plastic straws are used every day around the world.
FACT #4 Over half of the world’s plastic thrown out in 2015 was plastic packaging, that’s over 141 million metric tons.
FACT #5 Takeout orders account for around 269,000 US tons of plastic waste that has entered the oceans.
FACT #6 The amount of bubble wrap that is produced annually is enough to wrap around the Equator ten times!
FACT #7 The world uses 500 billion plastic cups, for example party cups, every year.
FACT #8 16 billion coffee cups are used each year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside and use plastic lids.
FACT #9 The world produces more than 14 million US tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) each year. Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year!
FACT #10 Around the world, people litter more than 4.5 trillion cigarette butts every year.

 

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Fact Sheet: Plastic Pollution and Management of Waste

FACT #1 About two billion people live without waste collection at all, and 3 billion have uncontrolled waste disposal, meaning poor management of solid waste is a global problem.[1]
FACT #2 Over 90% of plastic in the oceans comes directly from land-based sources.1
FACT #3 Between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans annually from mismanaged solid waste within 50km of the coast.1
FACT #4 Out of the 50 largest uncontrolled dumpsites globally, 38 are on the coast and many spill directly into the sea.1
FACT #5 Out of all plastic ever produced, 79% (5.5 billion US tons) of plastic waste has accumulated in landfills and the natural environment.[2]
FACT #6 Not all waste management facilities use the same technology. Some might be able to deal with plastics that are not recyclable when deposited in the wrong bin, but for others, the process will be much more complicated when mistakes are made.[3]
FACT #7 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste (13.2 billion US tons) will enter landfills or the environment by 2050 if current production and waste management trends continue.2
FACT #8 Uncontrolled burning of household waste causes about 270,000 premature deaths yearly.1
FACT #9 Plastic waste can block drains, which increases the risk of major flooding that leads to property damage and human displacement.1
FACT #10 Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.3

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Where does your plastic waste go?

In last week’s blog, we discussed the harm that plastic pollution causes to our oceans and marine wildlife. Animals are trapped by plastic debris or eat it and become sick. Microscopic plastic particles are absorbed by fish that humans eat.

You can read the whole story here. In the blog, we briefly mentioned how the main source of marine plastic is improperly managed waste. This happens in a variety of ways, including landfills that fail to keep the waste they store within their limits.

Some of the worst managed landfills overflow directly into waterways and oceans. In fact, thirty-eight of the world’s fifty largest uncontrolled dump sites are in coastal areas.

The situation in some places is even worse. Many small cities, towns, and villages worldwide do not have any waste management services, and there is no place to collect and dispose of household waste meeting even the minimum standards, forcing people to dump their trash into communal areas or burn it in their yards.

This challenge affects people living in developed and less developed countries, from Alaska to The Gambia.

The negative impacts of improper or insufficient waste management are immense, and the growing scale of the problem is pushing this issue towards an environmental and humanitarian crisis.

Statistics show that individuals living in households that burn trash in their yards face up to a six-fold increase in the risk of respiratory infection.

But it is not just the people living in these underserved communities that bear the negative effects of poor waste management. It is estimated that of all the world’s waste, 40 percent ends up in uncontrolled dump sites.

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Many of these dumpsites are so poorly regulated that the waste in them overflows directly into the ocean. This phenomenon is the main source of the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.

The growing scale of the problem of mismanaged waste means that by 2020 we will see a tenfold increase in the amount of plastic in the oceans and by 2050 marine plastic will outweigh the fish in the sea.

Mismanaged waste also contributes to global warming. By 2025, dump sites and landfills will account for a staggering eight to ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

With all of the problems already being caused by mismanaged waste, especially plastic waste, and the rate at which the problem is growing, it is clear that deliberate and immediate action needs to be taken.

We need to pressure governments and local officials to do better when it comes to the management of plastic waste. More developed countries need to realize that this is a problem impacting all of us and do more to help countries without the capacity or infrastructure to deal with their waste.

We need to push for an international framework on plastic pollution that includes protocols on the production and life cycle of plastics to ensure that it doesn’t make its way into the environment, and we ultimately produce less waste.

There is also more we can do on an individual level. There are many resources on how to properly handle waste when the local authorities do not provide any sufficient system for waste disposal.

This toolkit, created by Waste Aid International, will give anyone living in a place lacking waste collection services the knowledge and know-how to set up community-led waste management systems and even recycling businesses.

Not only will this help keep your community clean, but it could also help you earn an income.

For anyone lucky enough to reside in a place where your local authorities are doing a good job and recycling systems are in place, you should not feel like there is nothing left to do. We need to reduce the amount of plastic we consume.

 

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We invite you to test your level of consumption using our Plastic Pollution Calculator and to figure out how to reduce your consumption of plastic using our Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit. We cannot waste this opportunity to help help end plastic pollution!

[1] From the Land to the Sea: How Better Solid Waste Management Can Improve the Lives of the World’s Poorest and Halve the Quantity of Plastic Entering the Oceans. CIWM and WasteAid UK, Mar. 2018.

[2] Geyer, Roland, et al. “Production, Use, and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made.” Science Advances, vol. 3, no. 7, 19 July 2017, doi:10.1126/sciadv.1700782.

[3] Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit, Earth Day Network 2018

 

Source(s): EARTH DAY NETWORK

by Meryl M