Contrary to what is sometimes believed, the plastic soup is not made up of a mass of bottles and packaging. In fact, at first sight, very little plastic is visible. But appearances are deceiving, because it has broken down into pieces of less than 5 millimeters. This micro plastic is eaten by fish and ends up in our food chain. Micro plastic creates health risks and is even associated with cancer. All the more reason to intervene.
In the Netherlands every inhabitant ‘produces’ about 500 kilos of waste per year. By comparison: this is 4 times as much as 60 years ago. Prosperity has increased; more is being consumed, resulting in more waste. To do something about that, packaging free shops have been developed, where you only buy the product and not the packaging. So bring your own containers. In Berlin and Antwerp the first ‘zero waste shops’ are now a fact.
The clothing industry is also a huge source of pollution. When synthetic clothing is washed, small particles of polyester and acryl escape. These fibers are less than a millimeter in size, slip easily through all filters and find their way to the sea via waste water. An international ban on synthetic clothing would be a logical step, but that requires enlightened leadership. Until then, the smart consumer would do well to simply avoid these fabrics.
With that we come to the most important factor for improvement: the individual. We cannot take a back seat and wait until the government takes action. After all, we are all stakeholders of our planet. The Earth belongs to everyone and so we ourselves must take responsibility. That begins with really small things such as not littering the streets, because that too is a real attack on the environment and therefore our health. But if you are really concerned, then dare to go a step further: clearing up street litter. In the Netherlands the Genootschap van Onbezoldigde Ampikkelateurs (Society of Unpaid Paper Prickers) has been set up. Citizens who – armed with a ‘paper pricker’ – clear up waste. Quite ordinarily, while walking the dog or strolling in the neighborhood. If 25% of all Dutch people tidied up one item every day, there would be no more street litter.
But what’s to become of the ocean? The innovative project The Ocean Clean-up gives us an answer. The initiator is the 20 year old entrepreneur, Boyan Slat, who encountered ‘more plastic bags than fish’ while he was diving. It inspired him to take action. The result: a V-shaped construction for fishing plastic out of the water. The trick is in the placement of the ‘arms’, whereby the sea current in fact does the work.
Thanks to crowdfunding The Ocean Clean-up is now being prepared for practical application. Slat shows how one powerful idea can change the world. And no, it is not a total solution for the plastic soup. Micro plastic remains a problem and the waste flow must be decreased. There’s work to be done by everyone.
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