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World Environment Day 2018: Let's beat plastic pollution

world environment day

As World Environment Day approaches, focus intensifies on the #BeatPlasticPollution movement. UN-led World Environment Day is the most significant event in the calendar as key figures stand up in the name of change. Since modest beginnings in 1974, the day has evolved into a global crusade encouraging awareness and action to protect the environment – with over 100 hundred countries now taking part. Recent findings suggest that if we do not take action, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight by 2050. This is one of the greatest ecological catastrophe of our time.

By leveraging four changes, communities across the globe can play their part in the fight against plastic.

The four R’s of a plastic-free lifestyle

1. Refuse Plastic

First up, refuse plastic at all costs. Americans throw away 500-million plastic straws alone every day – enough to fill 127 school buses – which is an incredible waste. A simple ‘no’ to straws is a small step to significant change. A leap further is to avoid buying bottled water or juice, instead opting for a water dispenser system for your home or office – or a freshly-squeezed option – then taking the bottle with you.

Of the 50 billion plastic bottles purchased in 2016, just 23-percent were recycled. Coffee cups are another unseen evil, as the plastic composite material means they are unrecyclable, while many believe otherwise. Refusing the takeaway cup and filling your flask at home will force coffee outlets to rethink their sustainable credentials. The same applies to plastic bags; if a supermarket offers no alternative, source reusable cardboard boxes for your next shopping trip. Refusing is the first step, but actively avoiding is the most scalable approach to ending pollution.

2. Reuse Plastic

Where plastic is essential, be sure to choose reusable options. When the time comes to discard, be sure to recycle. The same goes for food packaging or take-out tupperware – these are often products with an extended life, so make the most of them. Best of all, opt for lifelong carrier bags and containers that will serve you for as long as you need.

3. Recycle Plastic

America has a national recycling average of just 34-percent. However, by making a small change, you can help the environment and free up crucial funds to be reinvested in other community projects and public services. Despite many struggling to understand what can and cannot be recycled, it is less complicated than most would believe. Let's take a minute to understand the numbers found on all plastics.

Yes, recycle me: #1 & #2 – soda bottles, water bottles, cleaning products and shampoo bottles, milk and juice containers, even some retail bags. These are all recyclable if they have a number 1 or 2.

No, discard me: #3, #6 & #7 – whereas plastic wraps, cooking oil bottles, PVC materials, vinyl, and Styrofoam must all go in the trash.

Maybe, maybe: Unfortunately, only certain centers can process #4 and #5; so, this is the only complexity. However, you can always ask if your local authority recycles these plastics.

Always check the number before you dispose; the energy saved recycling just one plastic bottle could power a computer for 25-minutes. When recycling, be sure not to wrap items in plastic bags, as centers are not allowed to process them for safety reasons. Additionally, avoid mixing recyclables with non-recyclables as this could lead to all the pieces finding their way into landfill.

4. Raise Awareness

While famous faces use their profile to help #BeatPlasticPollution, why don’t you reach out to your network? Invite friends to plastic-free dinner parties, attend public events to show your support to eco-friendly choices or spread the Four R’s.

Eco-friendly alternatives are available with ideas such as edible cutlery and liquid wood gaining traction in some circles. However, traditionalists may prefer to opt for paper plates or a metal drinking straw as a more palatable option. Finally, mycelium – which is the core element in mushrooms and fungi has taken center stage as an eco-packaging-option when mixed with other sustainable ingredients, such as oats. Companies have taken these ideas a step further – creating plant pots, lampshades, even table tops.

While legislation is essential, banning straws will not save the oceansPlastics already represent 60-80% of marine waste, rising to 95% in some regions, meaning wholesale change is needed to avoid marine ecosystems from perishing. Plastic survives for hundreds-of-thousands of years, and we are frequently reminded of just how bad the situation can get with divers often surrounded by more plastic than fish. By adopting a few simple actions, we can all #beatplasticpollution

As India prepares to host World Environment Day, we once again witness the power of collective action. World Environment Day is now the leading environmental event in the UN’s calendar with over 100 participating nations spreading a message of action to preserve the environment. As their example shows, the struggle is as much in bringing awareness of the problem to the masses as it is changing the habits of both retailers and producers.