It is understandable why so many of us feel overwhelmed when talking about the plastics crisis. Even after watching many documentaries and reading lots of articles on the subject, it is still so shocking to absorb the scale of this social issue.
To go through one day without coming across plastic is impossible. It is everywhere. From binding our books, to packaging our food, to our phones, and despite all the awareness and protests and disgruntlement towards the plastics industry, the consumption of plastic sets to double.
In the last 50 years alone there has been an increase of plastic production from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation).
The media has made us aware in recent years that plastic waste ends up in our beautiful ocean, but did you know roughly how much? According to the Ocean Conservancy, each year around 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into the ocean. This shocking figure is just an estimate too. The National History Museum points out that while it is relatively easy to see what’s on the surface, we don’t know exactly what is floating mid-water or on the seabed.
The Ocean Conservancy also supports this by confirming around 95% of the plastic that enters the ocean is not at the surface and it is essentially impossible to extract at scale once it has entered the ocean.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). An unthinkable outcome. That’s not the way the planet is supposed to function.
There is now research to suggest that most of the plastic entering our oceans come from a small geographic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly growing economies – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has been suggested this is a result of significant increases in GDP and economic power has generated demand for consumer products made from plastic (Ocean Conservancy).
It could also be related to the notion of Western countries accused of illegally importing their rubbish to South East Asia. Last year there were reports that both the Philippines (BBC News) and Cambodia sent plastic waste back to the US and Canada (Guardian). China also implemented a ban which meant they refused to buy any recycled plastic scrap that wasn’t 99.5 percent pure, whilst declaring they will now refuse to be a dumpsite for the developed world (National Geographic).
Whether plastic pollution is higher in the West or the Eastern part of the world, our oceans are interconnected and so we are all responsible for ensuring something is done to combat this critical problem that will inevitably affect generations to come.
Research by the Ocean Conservancy has found that plastic is consistently found in nearly all forms of marine life and has caused physiological stress, liver cancer, and endocrine dysfunction in fish that ingest them. There has also been evidence to suggest that ingesting plastic can affect fertility in female fish, as well as the growth of reproductive tissue in male fish.
It doesn’t stop there. According to the United Nations, the effects of plastic waste on fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals can result with them being entangled in, or digesting plastic debris which causes suffocation, starvation and drowning. This is in turn can end up in the seafood digested by humans. The cycle of plastic waste from human behaviour to marine life and back to the human body, is toxicity at the highest.
Social Enterprise is the solution
The facts and evidence of the harmfulness of plastic is devasting and only getting worse by the hour, but what exactly is the solution? A start would be to reduce single-use plastic and in the long-term to create alternative environmentally-friendly materials to replace plastic completely.
The Social Enterprise business model is an innovative framework designed to generate a profit like a traditional business, but also has a social mission to help protect our planet and society at the same time.
If you want to learn more about creating a thriving sustainable business which can combat the plastics crisis, click on our Learn page to find out more.
We also have blogs to encourage you to think about specific Social Enterprise Business Opportunities. Read our blog on The Plastic Wet Wipe and Plastic in Fashion – The Hanger to give you the entrepreneurial encouragement to help combat the plastics crisis.
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