Plastics are everywhere.
But more recently they have been on the news and not for any of the good things they provide us.
Our landfills, rivers and oceans are being overrun with the stuff. We are choking our ecosystems and not one living creature has not been exposed to it. No matter where you go in the world, no matter how remote, you are likely to find plastics.
So much so that the question has been raised: – Has the world now fallen out of love with Plastics?
Plastics are incredible materials. Plastic in nearly all its forms is a good thing. Plastic is precious. It is ‘buried sunshine’, the result of millions of years of stored energy from the sun in the form of crude oil. It is one of the greatest and most successful materials ever created. A solution to a lot of our human problems.
Plastics are hygienic and easy to clean. They last a long time and have increased the shelf life of our food products and the effectiveness of medicines. Plastics have made the world so much more colourful. They’re here to stay, no matter how deeply we care for our planet or our environment.
Plastics actually have the potential to reduce our ‘footprint’ on the planet. Think lightweight parts in cars and airplanes that reduce weight and therefore fuel consumption for instance.
Plastic is actually fantastic.
Plastic pollution is not the material’s fault. It’s our fault.
Yes, it’s the attitude of humans towards plastics, or how we treat them, that is the culprit. What is it that makes us so apathetic and lazy when it comes to plastic? We need an attitude adjustment. As humans, we have been well trained by the plastics industry to see plastics as a throwaway item. Certainly, the overwhelming volumes of plastic pollution on our land, waterways and oceans now requires a radical rethink.
On the bright side, our attitudes towards plastics are also the key to a viable and sustainable solution to plastic pollution.
That’s why we at Clean Oceans Ltd focus on changing human behaviour starting with the kids who attend the 317 Surf Lifesaving Clubs around Australia. The Surf Clubs not only save lives, they are also the custodians of the beach and ocean culture in Australia .
Every season, these clubs contribute massively to the plastic waste stream, in particular, PET drink bottles. Each Surf Club has a ‘Nippers’ program, better known as a training ground for kids to become lifesavers. Nippers kids range from 6 years old to 14 years of age.
What Clean Oceans does is educate these kids in how to treat every plastic drink bottle as a precious commodity. They are encouraged to refuse plastic bottles where possible, but if that is not possible, are taught how to reuse, recycle, return and earn and most importantly to re-educate their friends and family in the same practices. As a commitment to the kids, Clean Oceans provides every Surf Club Nipper kid with a refillable vacuum stainless steel bottle and each of the clubs with filtered water refill stations.
In any given season hundreds of thousands of PET bottles are taken out of circulation through active avoidance and having an alternative and sustainable hydration system in place.
The Clean Oceans program has been met with so much approval by parents and club members alike that many of the schools these Nippers go to are now wanting the same for their school children.
“It has been remarkable how quickly children can change not only their own behaviour and attitudes towards single use plastics, but also the behaviour amongst their family and schools” said Brett Pattinson, one of the Directors of Clean Oceans.
“By pushing on with the annual education of children, exposing them to the issues facing our oceans and our planet and offering them powerful ways to limit their contribution to this kind of damage, they quickly become powerful leaders of positive change”
Plastics are here to stay, at least in the short term.
With human behavioural change we can start thinking about plastics as a resource which actually adds value to the recycling chain and can be repurposed in a number of ways endlessly.
“If we create a circular economy for plastics, one full of economic and environmental benefits for everyone, we may yet hope to see a drop in the levels of plastics ending up as pollution.”
Maybe this way we can extend our love affair with plastics! Get involved by purchasing your own bottle or volunteering with us.
(Material for this article sourced from the BBC World Service Discovery Podcast ‘Why We Fell In Love With Plastic’)