On April 22nd, 2018, we’ll be celebrating Earth Day 2018, and this year, the main focus will be on plastic waste. You might have seen it on Facebook or in the news with stories about plastic in the ocean, plastic micro beads found in food and water, plastic in landfills… the list is long. Some even say plastic pollution has become an environmental challenge rivaling that of climate change.
So, this year we want to help raise awareness around plastic pollution, and give out some simple actionable ways you can change your habits to have a positive impact. We’ll also share some initiatives and innovations we’ve seen around the world to make people rethink their habits, and events we are organizing to make it easy for the Toronto community to do something for Earth Day!
Plastic and Electronics Recycling
You might ask why is an electronic recycler like ADL Process so invested in reducing plastic pollution? The answer is, we view recycling and sustainable consumption as a whole, not a compartmentalized activity. Yes, we specialize in electronics, but those electronics are often (if not almost always) within a plastic shell. It is our responsibility to ensure these plastic shells are dismantled and processed appropriately in our facilities for recycling.
Earth Day Events with ADL Process in Toronto
Before giving you the goods on plastic pollution, we’d like to invite you to celebrate Earth Day by joining us at one of our e-waste collection events in Toronto this weekend:
Saturday April 21 at Barbara Frum Library
Sunday April 22 at the Scarborough Civic Centre Library
Now, we’re going to talk about Plastic Pollution!
Let’s start with a few numbers to put the plastic pollution issue into perspective, remember that plastic as we know it has only been around for 60-70 years (source: bbc.com):
billion tonnes of virgin plastic has been produced to date
billion tonnes of which plastic waste had been generated as of 2015
of which plastic waste has been recycled
of which plastic waste has been incinerated
million plastic bottles are bought every minute
billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the environment by 2050 if we keep plastic production and waste management as is
of which plastic waste has accumulated in landfills or in the environment (sea, parks, forests…)
of plastic bottles are collected for recycling
million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each
You might ask, but why is plastic pollution so bad?
As plastic is composed of major toxic pollutants and is non-biodegradable, it has the potential to cause great harm to the environment creating problems for plants, wildlife and even human population.
The major long-term damages plastic pollution is causing are:
- Plastic upsets the food chain at the microorganism scale, by poisoning the plankton, it impacts larger animals depending on it.
- Plastic pollutes land and groundwater by forming hazardous chemicals that seep into the ground to contaminate the soil and water.
- Plastic particles are carried by the wind degrading air quality, when burnt, it releases the chemicals it contains into the air.
- Plastic toxins poison animals.
Here is the estimated time it takes for plastic to biodegrade
Scary! Right! So now what can you do to reduce your impact?
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to help mitigate the situation, here are a few examples of simple habit changes that can have a great impact:
- Recycle, recycle, and recycle. Make sure you sort your garbage according to your city’s recycling program guidelines.
- Try to avoid buying plastic water bottles, they are bad for the environment and contain plastic micro beads that are bad for your health. Instead, have a reusable glass or metal water container ready.
- If you buy your coffee in a paper cup, avoid black plastic lids (black cannot be processed by the scanners at the recycling facilities, so they end up in the landfills), if you can bring your own reusable cup, you’ll end up saving trees as well.
- Say no to excess plastic bags by bringing reusable grocery bags with you when shopping, and investing in reusable mesh bags for produce is also a good idea.
- Buy bulk whenever possible, you’ll save money, get the exact amount of the products you want, and if you bring your own containers some shops offer a discount.
- Switch to biodegradable garbage bags.
Don’t fall for misconceptions
A common misconception is that people think that big changes are required to have a positive impact. We like to say that the key to change is to be aware, and to start somewhere. In that spirit, we’d like to encourage you to inform yourself, and to spice things up, we challenge you to pick just one of the above suggestions to apply to your daily routine.
More resources on Plastic Pollution and what people are working on
We’ve compiled a list of resources we think are interesting to further illustrate the harm plastic does to the environment, and how some activists and companies have chosen to raise awareness or do things differently:
- A sea of plastic video
- Switching to biodegradable bags video
- Plastic eating enzyme article
- Plastic micro beads in your food (salt) video
- Plastic attack or how British activists raise awareness of the overuse of plastic packaging video
- Canadians are recycling wrong article
- The power of One, an individual sparked the cleaning of a beach in Mumbai video
- Sweden opened the first shopping mall in the world to sell recycled goods exclusively article