Albatross dies from ingested plastic - on Midway Atoll
During WWII financial constraints and material shortages forced many countries to recover and recycle materials just to ensure survival. At the time, it probably seemed like the end of the world, and it could have been. As a result, leaders got together fighting for a global cause and won by using every resource they had available to them. Today, we fight a different war, that for the survival and growth of our economy. The economy has become an infallible machine, one which provides a seemingly unlimited supply of products. Many of these products contain packaging which includes plastics. While many plastics are recyclable, often they never make it that far.
The economy has become an infallible machine, one which provides a seemingly unlimited supply of products.
A few years ago, PACNEXT was formed by the leaders in the retail, packaging and waste industries to determine solutions to this very problem. They decided it was time to put their heads together for, “A World Without Packaging Waste.” Despite very organized efforts, packaging waste typically is still found in landfills, our environment, and even our oceans. Can the world be without packaging waste? How about a landfill free globe?
“Most conventional plastics such as PE, PP, PS, PVC and PETE, are non biodegradable, and their increasing accumulation in the environment has been a threat to the planet.” – Journal of Molecular Science
The problem with plastics is that they do not biodegrade. Biodegradability of Plastics, published by the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by Tokiwa, Calabia, Ugwu and Aiba states, “most conventional plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, poly(vinyl chloride) and poly(ethylene terephthalate), are non-biodegradable. The paper continues to state that, “plastics and their increasing accumulation in the environment have been a threat to the planet.” But why are they a threat? Plastic does not break down into organic matter, and while living organisms may consume them by error, doing so poses a major threat to the planet and our ecosystem. Once plastic enters the environment, chemically their molecules remain for thousands of years, if not forever, finding its way into our food chain and ultimately and unquestionably into our bodies.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
– Henry Ford
So is recycling the answer? Well partially. Henry Ford once said, ”If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” The problem is that we are not all moving in the same direction. Currently, there are estimates as high as 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean as debris, clearly demonstrating we are losing the war. This number represents both an alarming and unfathomable number and we do not stand a chance against plastics unless we act with a concerted effort and do so fiercely.
“We need to stop using the environment as a tool for the economy and rather we must begin to use the economy as an instrument for the environment..”
– Gregoire James
I always say, “We need to stop using the environment as a tool for the economy and rather we must begin to use the economy as an instrument for the environment.” The Plastic Bank is one such company doing exactly this. The Plastic Bank is a triple bottom line social enterprise which turns plastic waste into currency in developing countries to helping to reduce global poverty. Yes, that’s right, currency. Boyan Slat is another champion in this area who is trying to clean up the oceans of discarded plastics and working to monetize this waste. Recently, Adidas is one group who has decided to harvest ocean plastic waste to make new products. The brand recently unveiled a new running shoe prototype that the company says features parts of the shoe which will be created entirely out of reclaimed ocean waste. While recycling plastics is a great way to win the battle, we must work harder. So what is the answer?
Peter Ryan, a zoologist at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, who is writing a book tracing the evolution of marine debris research, says the problem can be solved. “Marine debris, unlike global warming, should be an easy thing to deal with,” he says. “We have to sort out what to do with our rubbish.” What is the evolution of recycling? How do we win the war?
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
– Abraham Lincoln
The answer is simple, and its plan in the history of humanity is evident. Leaders must collectively fight using every resource available to them as if their lives depended on it because frankly, it does. While a plastic ban is the only way to win the war inevitably, in short order, this could complex lobbying efforts are required. Working towards a 100% landfill free globe utilizing recycling may be our only option. Abraham Lincoln once said, “you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” We must not put it off any longer.
“100% Landfill Free Globe by 2040″
– GeneraCycle Vision
“Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?”
– Chris Jordan
Gregoire James is the founder of an award-winning company, GeneraCycle Inc., founded in 2009 on the heels of necessity to stave off the world of landfills. GeneraCycle customers have included global brands such as Starbucks and Zipcar. GeneraCycle has also helped many start-up companies become more aware and accountable for their waste. Throughout his career, Mr. James has worked at numerous Fortune 500 companies pondering on the question, “Why is waste necessary?” It is through his personal commitments and passions for the environment that he has taken on his corporate pursuits to create a landfill free globe by 2040.