Governments and corporations must take more action on plastic
History with show that 2018 was the year that the world woke up to the issue of plastic pollution. This was the year that plastic – and the huge environmental crisis – really gained media traction. The media narrative however, is skewed towards making recommendations to individuals on how they should be recycling more to solve this global problem. There is very little visible pressure being applied to corporations to get them to do more to sort out the mess that they have helped create.
Current government and industry messaging is also aimed at the consumer and individuals. We are encouraged to recycle more but there is hardly any encouragement to reduce our overall plastic consumption. Recycling alone will not have any impact on this problem, given that only 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide. The problem can only be solved by tackling the source, and that source is the corporations churning out the plastic in their products.
Governments and corporations – not just individuals – should be doing much more to sort out the plastic crisis afflicting our oceans and rivers. The issue at the heart of the pandemic is single-use plastics and its use in consumer packaging. Banning the plastic drinking straw is a welcome first step, but it is simply not going far enough. Applying a consumer tax to plastic shopping bags is not doing nearly enough. We need to see more urgent action taken by everyone.
Corporations need to change their manufacturing and production habits. Governments need to apply more pressure to corporations, and urgently pass new laws to reduce the amount of plastic produced in the first place. In a recent Greenpeace audit covering 42 countries with 10,000 volunteers, the top 10 offenders of plastic pollution have been named.
- We need to see major corporations take the lead in helping to clean up the planet.
- Corporations should urgently seek to find alternatives to current plastic packaging materials.
- There needs to be a reduction in plastic manufacture worldwide.
- The number of consumer-grade polymers needs to be reduced and standardised, ensuring ease of recycling.
- Worldwide ban on plastic carrier bags. Tax levies and other charges, whilst having helped to reduce plastic bags usage, have not eliminated the problem. There are many alternatives to plastics that can be used instead, such as hemp and paper.
- Governments should pass laws regarding food packaging. Countries should follow the EU's lead; on 24 October 2018, the EU parliament voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics.
The process of addressing the plastic pollution crisis has begun, but we are only just beginning to understand the scale of the problem. Whilst we are tackling it with small changes to our collective habits, the world should be doing much more, and urgently. We need to see decisive leadership from more than the obvious environmentalists and activists. Governments and corporations need to focus on this worldwide pandemic.