I would like to open this article with a warm "Happy New Year" and a "thank you" to everyone who takes time out of their weeks to read these articles. 2017 was a great first (half) year for NO Standard Co. and 2018 is shaping up to be pretty rad. On that note let us dive into this weeks discussion: Our Plastic Problem!
In mid September of 2017 the Chinese government announced that it would be putting a ban on all imported plastics, shutting down a lot of countries "recycling" programs. Several countries including Canada and the United States have relied on China to take their plastic. These used plastics would be refined and turned into recycled goods like water bottles, plastic housing components, synthetic fibres, etc. Now that this regime is over, we have a major problem. Here in Nova Scotia we relied on China to take our garbage as well, now that the doors have shut we are faced with the harsh reality of our plastic problem.
Here in Nova Scotia we have somewhat strict garbage regulations that seem to have become lax in the last little while. Everyone's fear of being stickered come collection day was real, if a sticker was placed on your bags the garbage collection worker's refused to take the garbage and you would be forced to re-sort your waste. This was a good initiative to force people to be more conscious of their waste but it wasn't enforced in apartment buildings and as of recently seems to be less and less enforced on households. Black bags were primarily banned with the exception of one per collection period for sensitive waste. As I roam about the city I have noticing more and more black bags pop up, this is a problem. This means that people are not sorting their garbage and the collection services are not enforcing their regulations. Here in Nova Scotia we spend more then the national average on the operations of organics and recycling facilities and are just below the national average on transportation. Unfortunately these stats are almost 8 years old and are the most up-to-date public data on Stats Can. With 8-year-old data, there is no way the Federal Government could impose national regulations to curb waste, but this may be what we need. Nova Scotia, like most of Canada, is overall behind in our waste management system, some say almost 15 years. One solution to propel us back to the future would be a pay-per-waste system, where we are charged for what we throw away. This would incentivize people to reduce their waste and figure out more multi-use options. No matter the solution, we need to break our dependance with plastics and figure systems that are either biodegradable or reusable.
Plastics take anywhere from 450-1000 years to decompose; since the 1950's and the large scale production of plastic we have produced, globally, an estimated 8.3 billions tons of plastic with an estimated 91% not recycled. Most of the plastic we have produced has ended up in landfills and natural habitats, with the vast majority ending up in the ocean. We have had so much of our garbage reach the ocean that it has created an island, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If this doesn't scare you, I'm not sure what will. Once the garbage has reached the ocean, currents take it and converge to create garbage islands eventually combining with the Great Garbage Patch. Most of this waste is plastic, being non-organic and very slow to decompose. Marine life and ecosystems are struggling to survive and and being choked to death. With the loss of one of the world's plastic dumping grounds this problem might get even worse. Without a receptacle, plastic will find its way to the oceans and other habitats, expediting the degradation and strangling of ecosystems.
The planets ecosystems are fragile, knitted together through give-and-take relationships that keep the natural flow of energy moving. Humans have had major impacts on all ecosystems around the world, may it be through clear cutting for cattle farms or drastically increasing climate change causing receding ice fields in the arctics. We are the most invasive and destructive animal on earth but we are also the most creative and compassionate. If we understand our actions and the lifecycle of our consumption then we can start to change the world for the better. If we stop using plastics then we will take the choke-hold off ecosystems that are already struggling to deal with our impact. We can make the world a home for everyone but it takes a global social shift in all markets to make it happen, starting with plastic!
Some solutions that can make a real positive impact are:
- Bring re-usable cloth bags while shopping. This may seem like a small thing but plastic bag usage is a major, unnecessary, contributing to plastic waste.
- Use metal/glass/ceramic drinking containers. If we stop using one-use coffee cups we will not only save our local businesses money but we will reduce our waste. When we stop using plastic bottled water, we are cutting down our contribution to the use of 1 MILLION plastic water bottles PER MINUTE (globally)!
- DO NOT USE STRAWS! Straws, unless sometimes necessary due to health reasons, are a majorly stupid waste product! We have lips and the ability to suck! SO USE THEM! If you really like them, grab a glass or metal reusable one and bring it with you!
- Buy organic fabrics. Nylons, polyesters, and other synthetic fabrics may seem like a good use for some of our plastic waste but they create microfibres that do not breakdown in ecosystems. This causes major devastation to the areas they plague.
- Use metal or glass containers to shop for bulk food. A major contributor to plastic waste is food packaging, everything from the little piece of plastic on our noodle boxes to the containers our hummus comes in. If we shop in bulk and bring reusable containers we eliminate the need for this excess plastic waste.
These are just 5 of a vast number of things that we can do to reduce and eliminate our dependance on plastic. Leave a comment below of more ideas to reduce our plastic waste. If we work together we can change the world for the better. Remember, team work makes the dream work!
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