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Sunday, 21 July 2019

How we can permanently end plastic pollution

Plastics are everywhere. We use them for various purposes and they are a part of the everyday life of most people. They pollute our environment but more are made every second because of demand. A lot of solutions have been brought to mitigate plastic pollution but we are still getting negative news everyday. What can we do to permanently end plastic pollution, to make it a thing of the past? Read this article.
Plastic pollution

What have we been doing wrong?

We have been recycling and reusing, we have reduced our use but there are still plastic bags, bottles, etc everywhere. What are we doing wrong? Well to answer this question, let us view plastic pollution as what it is; a problem like every other problems. To end plastic pollution, we need to understand how problems are solved. To explain, i'll use an illustration.

To chop or to uproot?

We know that trees can sometimes be stubborn. Some can be chopped today and regrow before the end of the year. For such trees, they will always grow so long as their roots are still in the ground. In order to stop those tress from growing again, we either kill the root or uproot it. The bottom line is that the battle against the tree (problem we see) can only be won (solved) when we face the root (source of the problem). You see, to solve a problem, we have to find the source.
Sprout in a stump

How is the illustration above related to plastic pollution? Like all problems, we have to find the source(s) of plastic pollution. The sources include:
  • Unavailability of alternatives: Plastics can be used as bottles, bags, wraps, spoons, fashion accessories, toys, etc. Glass being an alternative to plastic bottles is not an alternative to plastic bags. You see, plastic has various uses so we need to come up with various alternatives.
  • Lack of discipline and love for the environment: Some cities in Nigeria are flooded because of bad drainage system or clogged drainage. The people in these cities know fully well that they have a role to play in order to curb the flood. They can clear the drainage system then dispose the right way so that their dirt and wastes don't block the waterway again. Well, they sometimes clear the system but they still throw their dirt anyhow. They know that their wastes cause the flood yet they still dispose anyhow. If they are disciplined or have love for their environment, they will not dispose just anyhow.
  • Increase of demand: How is the demand for plastics increasing even though we are trying to reduce our use? I'll explain with an illustration.

The sinking boat

A boat in a river has a hole in the middle and water is entering the boat through the hole. The more water enters the boat, the lower the boat becomes. How can we raise the level of the boat? Your answer will definitely be to scoop the water out. Well that's part of the solution but to permanently solve this problem, we'll need to first block the hole so that water cannot enter the boat before we remove the water which is already in the boat. Both actions taken are important but one proves to have a more lasting solution than the other. That's not all, let's see how we can use this illustration to explain how the demand of plastics is increasing. 
leaking boat

Now let's say that you have been idle in that boat and now that there's a hole, you have the job to scoop out the water. You know fully well that when the hole is closed and the water is out, you'll resume being idle so instead of closing the hole, you are very comfortable with scooping out the water. Just as doctors will go jobless when there's no sickness, people who sell coffins will close their shops if death stops, etc you will become idle if the hole is blocked.

We humans are subconsciously selfish. When will we realize that the more we come up with ways to reuse plastics, the more dependent on plastics we will be? Yes let's appreciate everyone who have come up with ideas to reuse plastics but let us also realize that plastic pollution is still increasing. Here are some ideas they brought:

  • From 2017, there have been a lot of articles online about some organisms like the waxworm which are able to eat plastic bags. Is it really worth it? Yes i agree that the waxworm eats plastics but then again what next? Can it digest it? What if another organism eats it or it finds a way to our tables (bioaccumulation)?. If we use these worms, they'll surely find a way to our tables because fishes eat them and we eat fishes. We'll indirectly be eating plastics.
  • Today, plastics are being tested in construction; some are used to construct walkways, some are shredded and mixed with mortar or melted to make bricks or roads. These innovations are good but they also make us more dependent on plastics. 
Let us solve this problem of plastic pollution from the root. No we aren't condemning the ideas because without them, we'll have even more plastics in our environment. Let us first focus on blocking the hole before we start scooping out the water. That is, let us find alternatives to plastics, reduce (or end) our demand for plastics before we channel our focus on what we can use the plastics already polluting our environment for.

When we focus on reusing plastics, we'll be fighting a never ending battle. We then can say that the more polluted the world becomes, the richer someone becomes (the person who came up with ideas on how to reuse the bottles). If we really want to permanently end plastic pollution, we should first focus our ideas on alternatives to use in order to reduce the demand, focus our energy in enlightening the public about causes, effects and solutions to pollution then come up with (or use existing) ideas to reuse the plastics already polluting the Earth. This is a fight with an end.

Step by step actions to permanently end plastic pollution

Green alternatives

We're looking for alternatives that will not cause pollution after mass production. Alternatives that are degradable (able to breakdown unlike plastics) and healthier are what we should be looking for. Instead of using plastics to wrap food items like moimoi (bean pudding) and okpa (made with bambara nut), we should use plant leaves that are traditionally used (Thaumatococcus daniellii). Come to think of it, the past sometimes offer a solution for present problems. Before plastic items were manufactured, what were our ancestors using? How can these items be modified? We can even consider a mass production of natural rubber since it is biodegradable.
Using the leaf of Thaumatococcus daniellii to wrap our food like moimoi is better than using plastic wraps

Enlightenment and enforcement

People should be enlightened and educated about pollution. They should be taught the causes of pollution, the effects of pollution (on our health and the health of our environment) and ways to end pollution like disposing the right way and only buying what we need and can consume. If these campaigns are successful, more people will value the Earth and dispose the right way. For others who are stubborn, they can be jailed or fined when they dispose anyhow. Companies involved in production of plastic items or items wrapped/contained in plastics should consider the end products of what they are making and should be fined when their products pollute the environment.

Read about a campaign we organized at Rivers state against plastic pollution at Plastic pollution campaign
Plastic pollution campaign

Controlled production rate

Even though the demand for plastics is increasing due to increase of population and discovery of more reusable ways, the rate of production should be controlled by governments or unions of manufacturers. Come to think of this; when there's a will, there's a way. If plastic production is banned, individuals and firms which previously relied on plastics will come up with a way to survive.

Recycling and reusing the plastics already polluting our environment

Now that the hole has been blocked (or is being blocked), we can focus on reusing or recycling the plastics already polluting our environment. This will be more effective in the concluding phase of the battle against plastic pollution than in the starting phase. Why? When we don't reduce the supply of plastics, people who reuse and recycle plastics will find them easily, they won't have to search for them or travel to the remote parts of the oceans where plastics are gathered. They just have to wait for people to throw their wastes away in order to find whatever kind of plastic they are looking for. When other preventive measures are taken before we focus more on reusing and recycling, we'll be sure that these people who recycle will have to search for the plastics therefore cleaning up the environment. Think of this; scavenging is an enterprise you can start with zero capital. You just have to search for a needed waste and supply it to who is willing to pay for it.
Construction of a walkway using plastic bottles, wraps and caps

The battle against plastic pollution has taken too much time. Let us permanently end plastic pollution. Thanks for reading this article to the end. Please do well to share your opinion in the comment box below. You can also share the article with your friends and family.


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