Plastic pollution is often a heavy and not so exciting topic. Single-use plastic is one of the biggest polluters - and one of the easiest we can avoid through mindful actions and conscious purchases. There is true power in refusing, reducing, and reusing as we aim to tackle plastic pollution. However, it is more than an environmental challenge.
Plastic pollution is also a socio-economic and justice issue. We're joining with our friends and fellow 5 Gyres supporters at Natracare to help bring some light on the complexity of the issues surrounding plastic pollution.
What is Plastic Pollution? And what is the problem?
Plastic pollution is the result of economic trends and product lifestyles that are linear. When companies and manufacturers don't consider what will happen to their products and their packaging after they're used, plastic pollution is often the result. Ocean Conservancy estimates 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year. These are some impossible-to-envision statistics to comprehend. The impact of our reliance on plastic is undeniable.
Though we often discuss plastic pollution in relevance to the ocean and water systems, it's primarily a land-based problem. The production - and often littering - happens on land. Along with Natracare, we're proud to support 5 Gyres who are hosting Trash Blitz events around the US to help collect data behind where the plastic pollution is coming from.
How is plastic pollution a socio-economic issue?
Plastic pollution is without a doubt an important environmental issue, yet it is not the root of the problem. The production of plastic and the lack of value in the waste of plastic are to blame. Because we haven't dealt with this issue, it becomes the problem. The systems that are processed in place to "manage" plastic waste are rooted in racism and classism. The majority of our waste in the United States is sent off to India, China, Haiti, Ghana, etc. In the US, 79% of the 73 incinerators are located in BIPOC communities according to a 2019 report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. It is an extremely flawed response to transfer our responsibility and our waste to other countries, especially lower socio-economic and BIPOC communities.
What can we do?
Plastic pollution and its rippling impact mean there are many ways to approach and tackle this system-based issue. In addition to educating oneself and raising awareness, we can opt for brands and products that are mindful of the long-term impact beyond its initial issue. We must also demand better policies and regulations to protect all communities and not uphold the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) mindset.
There is no true environmental justice without racial justice. This includes the fight against plastic pollution. There are many steps to addressing this growing challenge. Though it is only the first step, we hope to continue to raise awareness of the complexity surrounding plastic pollution as well as partnering with brands like Natracare who also actively think about the full cycle of their products and their natural materials.
Thank you to our friends at Natracare and please check out their blog on Intersectional Environmentalism to educate yourself further!