‘Every little helps’ is a dangerous mantra for climate change – UKPosted on December 24, 2013 by DrRossH in Plastic Limiting Regulations
We should not confuse the issue of climate change with the issue of over use of plastic. They have very different consequences for the world. Though not disconnected entirely, as plastic is made from fossil fuels and fossil fuels are the main contributor to climate change.
The over and unnecessary use of plastic has far more dire immediate and long term consequences. The immediate threat is the litter and pollution that plastic is making in our world. Whole rivers are covered in floating plastic litter when they should be pictures of beauty. Wild life are being killed in the 100,000’s per year by gruesome deaths of strangulation, drowning, starvation and asphyxiation. Can the torturous death of a seal be worth the convenience of a plastic bag that is used to carry grocery from the shop to the home for 20 mins then discarded? Absolutely not. The pollution of our beaches and parks with plastic bottles and plates and cutlery is just simply disgraceful. It is irresponsible behaviour of manufacturers to make these cheap products for a profit and likewise irresponsible behaviour of consumers to think they can use these products with no consequences once they have discarded them in a bin or as litter. Manufacturers do not want to change their processes (and lobby hard to not do so) and consumers do not want to know their behaviour has terrible consequences on others. We are happier when our head is in the sands it seems.
Long term the release of plastic in the oceans will have very dire effects. The oceans are international waters and once plastic waste has reached there, every company and country is off the hook as far as being responsible for it. The oceans occupy 70% of the worlds surface. That means there is 2.3 times more ocean surface than land. So if we allow our lands to adsorb x% of plastic waste before it comes so disgusting that our life style is severely compromised then there will be 2.3 times x plastic waste discarded into the oceans before we as a community get to the point where we realise what a huge mistake the world has made. Actually the ratio is a lot higher than this as a lot of plastic sinks to the bottom of the oceans and we are not aware of that part of it at all. Some reference say 70% of plastic produced sinks. Which would make the above ratio 2.3/0.3 = 7 times. (Disposable plastics manufacturers love this high number as they will see the oceans as such a large dumping ground of their products that it will be many years before too much attention is focused on their products waste.. Out of site out of mind. By then the amount of plastic in the oceans will be so large that cost to try to address it will be too huge for the people of that generation. They will look back at our generation and say ‘How could you have been so reckless for the sake of profits and convenience? What will their oceans look like? Plastic debris floating everywhere clogging up shipping channels, destroying fishing operations, extinction of whole species which severely interrupts the necessary biodiversification for ecosystems to survive, contaminating fish meat with toxins absorbed by the plastic microbeads and eaten by lower level fish?
As a world we need to focus on the reduction of disposable plastic use. 50% of the worlds plastic use is by consumers with their plastic bottles, straws, cutlery, cups, plates, bags, etc. To hide behind convenience as the reason to continue to use it is a hollow reason. We simply need to change our behaviour of what we have become accustomed to these past 20 years. Ireland started to charge for the bag and people changed their habits in just a few months and now do not want to go back to what they used to think was the ‘most convenient’ way for them. They grew up.
Action of Climate Change has to be taken yes, but the reason to take action on the reduction use of plastic should not be governed alone by the argument for climate change. There are far more important reasons.