We all know about our plastic problem and how it’s impacting the wildlife we need to keep our fragile ecosystem healthy.
This is an issue at the heart of ‘A Plastic Ocean’, a documentary I recently watched on Netflix. Journalist Craig Leeson presents the undeniable truth of our plastic problem, working with scientists, researches and even a few famous faces such as Barack Obama and David Attenborough.
‘A Plastic Ocean’ is the first documentary I’ve watched that not only reveals the true scale of the plastic pollution issue we’ve created, but provides actionable steps to combat the ever-growing problem of plastic in our oceans.
It doesn’t blame the poverty-stricken people cutting down the Amazon rainforest who are trying to feed their families. Neither does it blame the poorer individuals in our communities who can’t afford to make sustainable choices.
Watching ‘A Plastic Ocean’ made me realise how desensitised we must be to these issues. Certain species will be extinct in a few years (if not already), by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish (by weight), and even human life won’t be sustained on this planet.
These issues don’t seem to hit home anymore.
We needed a real wake up call.
Cutting open birds and taking the plastic they’ve ingested out of their stomachs.
It’s a disgusting sentence, but I’m saddened to say it’s what I needed to truly grasp the problem. To see autopsies of innocent animals who we are indirectly killing through our plastic consumption habits.
It has always been my opinion that the ‘little guy’ who’s working full-time to support his family, or even just to live comfortably as a single individual, should not be blamed or made to feel responsible for the carelessness of huge corporations.
We are minnows. They are sharks.
Government messaging has changed on multiple occasions about which fuel to use, what you should/shouldn’t be recycling, how you can help fight climate change.
All the while, big corporations who fuel our consumption were, and still are, mass-producing plastic on an ungodly scale without a second thought.
Tearfund’s 2020 report, The Burning Question, reveals that just four global companies create 83 football pitches worth of plastic pollution. Every day.
They have had YEARS to figure out alternatives, and yet it’s us who are supposed to quickly clean up our act…
Well that doesn’t sound right to me.
So it got me thinking, what can the little guy do? What can we actually do?
If we already avidly recycle, use bags for life and are transitioning to plastic-free (which isn’t feasible on many individual’s/family’s budgets) – where does our power lie?
Here are three pointers that are great places to start:
1. Petition for action
The big companies that dominate the market haven’t provided alternatives and therefore, surprise surprise, we now have a plastic problem.
This isn’t news to them and to say otherwise would be to disregard decades of predictions that this would happen.
Expecting people who are already struggling to make ends meet, feed their families or pay their electricity bills is unrealistic and unjust.
Rather than shifting the responsibility to those who are the backbone of this economy, we should be looking to the top of the chain for answers.
If their drinks bottles are in sustainable packaging, or there are government fuelled local projects to reuse the plastic that is being bought, then this issue would be a whole lot more manageable.
Companies lobby governments.
Therefore, we should be raising our voice at these companies AND our governments.
Signing petitions is THE easiest way to get involved.
You don’t even have to move.
Search for petitions either on a local, national or global level to call for change. Here’s a few to get you started:
Signing a petition can make a real difference. Even more so if you share it with your friends.
It only takes one person to get the ball rolling, but it takes many to gain momentum.
2. Use the power of your purse
Your money has immense power.
The cash earned through your hard work is what keeps the economy going and the financial world turning.
So use that power.
I don’t think it’s up to the general public to carry the weight of the crisis, but if you can help then your purchasing power is a great way to do it.
Rather than buying a product in plastic, is there a sustainably-packaged alternative?
Or even better, is it loose?
I’m not preaching we should all be fighting to go plastic-free. As much as that would help, it’s not realistic just yet.
But the premise behind it is the same.
If you use your purchasing power to show companies the sustainably packaged/loose items sell better, they’ll sure as hell make sure you can get your hands on it.
Even if that means replacing the plastic packaged version.
We can signal to these big companies that we want change, and we’re willing to pay for it.
The hope is that, by seeing an increased spend on sustainable products, overtime these can become accessible to all budgets, so that people who are struggling to get by can also make more sustainable choices.
I remember when vegan and vegetarian products used to be eye-wateringly expensive. Buying something vegan would be an actual TREAT.
But just the other day I was at a service station and I saw a whole range of vegan and vegetarian options as part of a bog standard meal deal.
The companies saw an increase in demand… and they invested more resources into it. And now it’s far more accessible than it ever used to be.
Granted, it’s a process and this suggestion is for those who can honestly afford to make the swaps.
If you can, you’re not only helping the plastic problem, you’re also helping the wider population gain access to sustainable choices too.
3. Donate to the right causes
It’s one that many of us say we’ll do, until we realise we never actually did.
If you can donate, please do.
However, I would suggest looking into and reviewing any causes you want to donate to first.
Make sure your money is going to go straight to the people you’re trying to help – whether that’s researchers, poverty-stricken villages who have been displaced through climate change, or conservationists who work tirelessly to save this earth’s beautiful aquatic life.
The Ocean Cleanup is a visionary non-profit organisation which has created a solution to the plastic issue we already have. They’ve done this through “developing a passive ocean cleanup technology, that moves with the currents – just like the plastic – to catch it”. It’s unassuming simplicity and great message makes it worth a review.
Plastic is of course only one issue for our oceans, so I’ve added in Oceana whose campaigns span the width of breadth of issues that impact our oceans and subsequent ecosystems.
And how could I not include Plastic Oceans’ site on the list? Research, education and campaigns. Rethinking the way we use, and reuse, plastic and clearing up our oceans to protect our fragile ecosystem is at their core. The work they are doing will hopefully have ripples for generations to come.
Equally if donating money isn’t an option, you can always donate your time by volunteering.
Whether it’s picking plastic off of beaches or going to youth clubs and giving talks on how the younger generations can help, it’s all valuable.
We’ve all got power
Whether you’ve got disposable income to donate or not, you still have power because you have a voice.
Your voice is influential. It has influence on your friends, family and social media followers (whether that’s 100 or 100,000).
We all have the power to incite change with the resources we do have. So please never forget your voice is one of them.
All it took was a documentary on Netflix to unsettle and shake me out of my comfort zone. That’s all I needed to decide I was going to do better and choose better.
Whether it’s petitioning, using your spending power or donating:
Right now, this earth and every individual that inhabits it needs you and your influence.
If you’d like to watch ‘A Plastic Ocean’ for yourself, it’s available to stream now on Netflix.