Anybody that has ever struggled with weight will know that at the worst times you feel so far gone that there is no point in trying. What difference will one more take away make? The task ahead is just too large. There is a small amount of freedom in this, but mostly it’s deeply depressing. I think we are collectively at this point when it comes to climate change and pollution.
It’s hard to get excited about recycling when we know that the majority of waste will not be recycled. Even the plastic that does get recycled is usually unsuitable to be reused for its original purpose. There’s only so many fleece jackets the world needs. Since 1950, 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced. Just 9% has been recycled and 12% has been incinerated. That leaves 79% of all that plastic either in landfills or in our environment. Studies now suggest that 90% of seabirds contain plastic debris.
Here in Ireland we are currently recycling 70% of plastic bottles. This might sound positive but that means we are not recycling 30%. Plastic bags are far worse, with just over 6% estimated to be recycled worldwide. Let’s not even think about all the cling film and packaging that we are using.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. The vastness of our oceans is hard to comprehend, which might explain why we are not in a state of global panic over such a huge problem of our own creation.
To continue the analogy, the situation is now so bad that cutting out take-aways and going for walks isn’t going to cut it. If we are serious about leaving an habitable planet for future generations then we need to take action now.
Capitalism has been used to organise our society in some form for centuries. Alternative methods have been tried and have invariably failed. Much of our advancement as a race can be attributed to Capitalism. It hasn’t all been good though. Uncontrolled Capitalism has led to financial crashes, massive wealth inequality and runaway pollution.
The reason we have regulation in so many areas is to curb these negatives. We are not doing nearly enough. Voting at election time is one way we influence the direction of our society. Most of us take this duty seriously. We are less conscious of the arguably more influential vote we have, the vote with our pockets. We can lament the destruction of our planet all we want, but as long as we are purchasing wasteful products they will be produced.
In times when the economy is booming but most of us are not, it’s hard to blame people for purchasing cheaper products. Convenience is also a huge factor. Wet wipes, plastic bags and single use plastics are convenient. Information campaigns will not change behaviours quickly enough. Government intervention is required.
Our Government doesn’t have to be very original. While I would counsel against following the U.K.’s lead on some of the larger decisions they have taken of late, their decision to ban single use plastics like straws, cotton swabs and stirrers by the end of the year is worthy of following. There is an argument for disability exemptions for straws and this should be facilitated in a controlled way.
Wet wipes are also on Theresa May’s radar. As a parent of a baby, I know how convenient and sometimes vital wet wipes are. Banning these could cause uproar but if capitalism has shown us anything, it is that a solution will be quickly found. Innovative products will emerge.
Bio-Degradable bags seem like a convenient solution. While some can be composted at home, when placed in your bin they end up in landfill. Some only degrade in industrial scale composting plants and cannot be recycled with ordinary plastic as they will contaminate the waste stream. They don’t compost at all in water and therefore cause the same problems regular plastic bags do in our oceans.
The confusion around bio degradable bags as well as the myriad of types that have sprung up is a good example of why we need to put controls on capitalism. Many people are concerned about pollution and the market comes up with a convenient solution. Profit is the driver here for the most part, not saving the planet. We should be wary of feel good solutions that are unproven.
Are we willing to bet the future of our planet on the hope of some future breakthrough that will solve the problem without us changing our behaviour?
The stakes are just too high. There is already evidence that micro plastics have entered the food chain and it is very possible that we are consuming food containing micro plastics. Incinerators are becoming more common. Our governments need to take real action now. The age of hyper convenience without regard for our environment needs to come to an end.
Image Credit HERE.
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