Celebrate Earth Week April 16-22

Earth Week is just around the corner, and this year the spotlight is on the Worldwide plastic pollution crisis. Find out how you can participate and join this Global movement to make our world a better place.

Most people reading this will throw away some form of plastic today. Our society’s over-consumption of plastic has become so pervasive that if present trends continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 20501. Much of the growth in plastic production can be attributed to an increase in plastic packaging and single-use plastic products. Our reliance on convenient, single-use products has skyrocketed. Take plastic bottles as an example: every single minute, one million plastic bottles are purchased around the World2.

Over the past several decades, of the billions of tons of plastic that have been made, only 10% have been recycled. The other 90% has made its way into our landfills, parks, forests, waterways, lakes, and oceans, and is slowly making its way back into our food chain3. When plastic isn’t recycled, it biodegrades, meaning it (eventually) breaks down as a result of being exposed to bacteria, but this can sometimes take hundreds of years depending on the type of plastic and conditions. Note that biodegradable does not mean compostable and that these terms are not interchangeable. Unlike biodegradable items, compostable items can be broken down into nutrient-rich soil and the process is much faster than biodegradation, typically taking up to 90 days under the right conditions.

Plastic pollution can also photodegrade, which is what happens when it ends up in our waterways, lakes and oceans. Photodegradation occurs when plastic is exposed to sunlight, causing it to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, until it eventually becomes invisible to the naked eye. Marine life often mistakes these ‘microplastics’ for plankton and eat them, which is how plastic makes its way back into our food chain and onto our plates. With Canada having the longest coastline in the world at 243,000 km, there are many opportunities for our plastic pollution to end the World’s oceans4.

Because of our global plastic pollution problem, this year’s theme for Earth Week (April 16-22) is to End Plastic Pollution. Earth Week is a Worldwide week-long celebration of environmental awareness and respect for our plant that culminates with Earth Day (April 22). Here are three simple ways you can participate and be part of this Global movement to help make our World a better place.

  1. #RefuseSingleUse. The best way to end plastic pollution is to stop using single-use plastic! Get into the habit of using a reusable water bottle, coffee mug (most paper cups are lined with plastic), cutlery, food containers, shopping bags, and straws (straws suck).
  2. Participate in a Community Clean Up. If there aren’t any organized cleanups in your neighbourhood, just go outside and pick up some litter on your own or with a few friends (don’t forget gloves). You never know who might be watching and inspired to do the same.
  3. Purchase products with no/minimal packaging, or the very least, use recycled packaging. Every time you purchase a product, you’re voting for that product. As consumers, we have the power to inform companies about the type of products we want to purchase, based on what we purchase. There are power in numbers. Next time you’re at the grocery store, instead of choosing prepackaged produce, opt for fresh produce from the bin. Just stick them into your cart loose and they’ll be fine! If you’re not ready to let your produce loose just yet, try these reusable organic cotton bags instead.

Remember, small acts when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the World.

Written By:

Kimberley Glassford
Senior Sustainability Consultant
Strategic Sustainable Solutions

Sources

1 https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/news/New-Plastics-Economy_Background-to-Key-Statistics_19022016v2.pdf

2 https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/07/26/million-plastic-bottles-minute-91-not-recycled/#4487b43f292c

3 https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/

4 https://plasticoceans.org/why-we-launched-plastic-oceans-foundation-canada/

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