Plastic pollution in the ocean - better on-land management is the answer
The scale of the problem – what happens to plastics in the sea?
In 2019 it became impossible to hide from just how serious an issue plastic pollution is. Spurred on by a number of David Attenborough documentaries, the media and public interest grew to a level like never before. Photos and videos were shared extensively showing the scale of the problem on coasts, in rivers and especially in the oceans.
A worldwide campaign aimed at cleaning the oceans started to gain more and more attention and support. Organisations like the Ocean Cleanup are making amazing efforts to remove plastic, with some definite success.
However there are some massive challenges to the sustainable impact of this. The Green Alliance has shown where the plastic in the ocean comes from and what happens to it once it’s there. According to the Green Alliance, a huge 70% of the plastic entering the ocean ends up sinking to the sea floor, which none of the current clean-up methods can reach.
Cleaning the oceans is futile until we stem the flow of plastics into them
These clean-up efforts are likely to be futile until we drastically reduce the amount of plastic entering the sea. A World Economic Forum study in 2016 estimated that over 15 tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every minute. It seems unlikely that any clean up job will come close to matching that rate.
“Even the best clean up job cannot solve this crisis, not least because 70 per cent of plastic waste sinks to the sea floor, so we cannot hope to simply sweep it up from the surface. The oceans can tell us what’s wrong, but the solutions need to start somewhere else, so that we stop plastics entering the marine environment in the first place.”
Circulor’s solution helps to better manage waste on land
At Circulor, we believe that when it comes to the global crisis of plastic pollution, simply cleaning the ocean is not the solution. Instead there are 4 things we must do to tackle this issue:
Drastically limit single-use plastics
Better manage waste on land
Prevent plastics from reaching the sea
Invent new materials
It’s not just the ocean that is feeling the effects. Mismanaged waste on land is leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people each year in developing countries from easily preventable causes, which is being worsened by plastic waste, a report by the charity Tearfund has found.
Waste is frequently left uncollected in poorer countries and its build-up leads to the spread of disease. Between 400,000 and 1 million people are dying each year as a result of such mismanaged waste.
Circulor's solution helps ensure we better manage waste on land, which in turn helps to prevent plastics from reaching the sea in the first place. The solution enables closed loop recycling of plastics – a circular economy that returns plastic to where it's supposed to be.
Circulor ensures that industry recycling claims can be verified
The “global commitment on plastic”, introduced in 2018 for corporations to pledge to use less and recycle more, has grown to more than 400 of the world’s biggest companies. Together they are responsible for more than 20% of all the plastic packaging produced.
The UK supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have made some visible improvements in their stores, while making further pledges for behind the scenes operations. Asda stated that nearly one-third of its plastic packaging would come from recycled sources by the end of 2020 and all should be recyclable by 2025. Waitrose said it had removed 90% of 2,291 tonnes of hard-to-recycle black plastic. Tesco promised to remove 1 billion pieces of plastic from products in UK stores by the end of 2020.
As more and more companies make claims and pledges, it is important that there are systems in place to keep them honest. The Guardian reported this month that recent recycling claims by companies do not always stand up to scrutiny:
“Industry attempts to appear green mostly ended in confusion. Products were increasingly classed as compostable, biodegradable, recyclable, reusable or bio-based. But most of these terms meant little. Biodegradable plastic was found to be intact after years at sea; not all compostable materials could be composted at home; and recyclable depended on the local waste stream.”
If some companies are found to be making false claims, then companies that truly are doing responsible business may suffer unfair breaks of trust. Circulor protects those companies by providing real, end-to-end traceability. By giving a commodity an identity and tracking it throughout its journey, Circulor proves chain of custody for manufactured and recycled materials, ensuring that recyclable waste enters and exits the recycling process successfully. Companies that responsibly recycle can prove that they do so, and consumers can have faith that industry recycling claims are trustworthy.