A Plastic Solution

As we near the end of #APlasticWorld, it is clear that we need viable solutions both in the short and long term for our plastic pollution problem.

Short-Term Solutions  

While it may seem like we as individuals may not have that much power to turn the tide of plastics, our daily lives and how we choose to consume can drastically affect the ocean’s well-being. Choosing to avoid just one plastic bottle is a vital step in changing our habits that lead to a cleaner ocean; choosing to avoid just one plastic bottle could potentially save a marine animal’s life.

Since every product bought and sold seems to be wrapped in plastic, it can be very daunting and difficult to imagine not throwing away some sort of plastic wrap throughout the day. While different communities certainly have more resources that make a zero-waste lifestyle easier, simply adopting a few new habits can make a world of difference for our individual plastic waste. Here are a few tips you can pick and choose to revamp your lifestyle:

  • Using reusable shopping and produce bags

  • Using a reusable water bottle

  • Choosing products without microbeads   

  • Using reusable cutlery and straws from materials like bamboo

  • Using your own glass or stainless steel containers for takeout meals

  • Shopping in bulk if that is an option at your grocery store (if you bring your own containers, an employee should be able to tare the weight for you before filling it!)

  • Making your own (very easy) toiletries

The list could go on and on; these are just a few very simply swaps that require minimal effort on your behalf. For more inspiration on cutting single-use plastic out of your daily routine, Trash is for Tossers provides great resources and DIY projects for a less wasteful lifestyle.

Trash For Tossers YouTube Page

Trash For Tossers YouTube Page

In addition to stopping extraneous plastic from entering the stream of plastic into the ocean, different innovators, artists, and businesses have stepped up to actively retrieve and repurpose plastic that is currently sitting around in the water.

Parley x Adidas  

ParleyxAdidas Soccer Kit

ParleyxAdidas Soccer Kit

Since 2016, the Parley x Adidas partnership has produced a shoe line, athletic wear, and even a professional soccer kit for teams like Real Madrid that are all made out of plastic. The two companies collaborated to invent a new thread spun from plastic collected from the ocean; the UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley shoe, for example, will repurpose at least 11 million bottles from coastal areas if one million pairs are sold.

Fishing for Energy

Diver collects nets for Fishing for Energy

Diver collects nets for Fishing for Energy

Started in 2008, Fishing for Energy provides the fishing communities in 12 different states with a way to dispose old nets with the guarantee that they will not end up in the ocean. These old nets are converted into electricity, with a large portion of the nets having been retrieved directly from the ocean. One ton of the nets generates enough electricity to power one home for 25 days. Fishing for Energy has collected almost 4 million pounds of fishing gear and continues to spread its disposal centers throughout ports across America.

Long-Term Goals

We must establish long-term, sustainable infrastructure and processes to handle our plastic in order to not only instill widespread clean-up and protection of the ocean, but also prevent such a global crisis from happening again.

Indonesia and the Citarum River

Indonesia and the Citarum River

Indonesia is a great example of the government allocating more resources for the clean-up our oceans deserve. The Citarum is the longest river in West Java of Indonesia; in it's natural, pristine form, it was a major source of work and income for the nearly five million people that live in its basin. Unfortunately, that is no longer a reality; nearly 20,000 tons of waste and 340,000 tons of wastewater enter the river daily, earning the title of "world's dirtiest river" by the Asian Development Bank.

The Indonesian government has taken rightfully extreme measures to clean up the Citarum, deploying 7,000 troops to clean it up; already, some areas of the river have seen a 40% reduction of plastic. The soldiers live in the basin community, so they not only actively retrieve waste from the water, but also interact with the local communities to build better waste management processes. With nearly 27 million citizens relying on this river's water for irrigation, drinking water, and everyday needs, Indonesian President Joko Widodo hopes to restore the river back to its natural, pristine state in seven years.


Celebrating Recycling in Germany

Germany boasts the highest recycling rate in the world at 56.1%. Different colored bins in all communities across the country allow citizens to divide their glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, organic waste, and general waste no matter where they are. In fact, every community is required by law to collect compost. This culture of celebrated waste management among citizens stems from the government’s waste management policies.

German waste bins; black bins are for general waste, yellow is for plastic, brown is for compost, blue is for paper

German waste bins; black bins are for general waste, yellow is for plastic, brown is for compost, blue is for paper

The Waste Management Act of 2012 lays out a waste hierarchy for all Federal states regarding prevention, reuse, recycling, and disposal of waste; the goal of German waste management practices is to limit waste generation and maximize recycling. From this act, Federal states are able to curate their own acts, as the local authorities within the states are responsible for handling household waste in most towns and districts through waste collection and operation of disposal facilities.

Germany’s success arises not only from the close interactions regarding waste management between national and local governments, but also from the resulting culture of Germany as a people that respects and celebrates the importance and details of their government’s waste policies.

We already have an abundance of innovative solutions for our plastic problem at our fingertips. Even as single individuals, we have more power than we think; whether it’s reducing the plastic in our daily lives, supporting sustainable businesses, or demanding better waste management and infrastructure from our governments, individuals have power to drive forward solutions to save our oceans. The time to start is now.

-Lily Lee

Clean Consulting UCLA