In our quest to keep plastic out of the oceans The Plastic Bank has discovered a few insights that guide our mission
Ocean plastic starts on the land. While this may seem obvious to you, we as a society tend to act like this isn’t the case. Recently there has been a big focus on removing all the plastic from the oceans. While it’s great that people are working on cleaning up the damage already done it’s important to understand that this is not a blanket solution. It’s more effective to prevent the estimated 9 Million metric tons of plastic from entering the ocean this year than to try to scoop it out later.
This is not only an environmental issue, it’s an economic one. People think of the ocean plastic problem in terms of gyres of plastic pollution in the middle of the Pacific, sea birds choking on bottle caps or sea turtles caught in 6-pack rings. This is the outcome of an economic system that pursues only profit, while ignoring the environmental and social consequences of our decisions. Most organizations would use recycled plastic anywhere possible if it were no more expensive than virgin plastic. As the price of has oil dropped, new plastic production became cheaper and some independent plastic recyclers can no longer compete on price. This lack of financial incentive means that plastic goes uncollected where it’s pushed into the streets, waterways and eventually the oceans.
Plastic waste is a problem of perspective. The way that people view waste plastic dictates what happens to it. Through our work in Haiti we have seen first hand how revealing value in plastic affects people’s actions. Many of these people survive on less than a dollar a day in a country with little to no system for recycling. Recycling is simply not something they can afford to worry about. Now that plastic can be exchanged for cash or services, such as cell phone charging, at our Solar Powered Social Plastic Recycling Markets people view it as currency. If a dollar bill were blowing down the street it wouldn’t make it very far, we want to plastic to be seen the same way.
The volume of plastic waste is increasing. As people in developing countries come to expect the same lifestyle as those in rich countries the amount of packaging and discarded plastic goods is only going to climb. Although we now have alternatives to producing virgin plastic, like The Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic® we continue to produce more and more unnecessary new plastic every year. Scientists estimate that by 2025, the annual cumulative output of plastic into the world’s oceans will be around 155 Million metric tons. There are already about 3 Trillion tons of plastic sitting on the earth, do we really need to make any more?
The best brands want to do the right thing. The brands we talk to believe in the Social Plastic® movement because they share our values not because they are worried about brand image. They are listening to their customers and genuinely want to create a positive impact on society and the environment. The Social Plastic® movement is hitting a tipping point and you can help us by joining the million plus people who have already helped to prove the demand for Social Plastic® on Facebook or you can participate in our ask a brand to use Social Plastic® campaign. Through the sale of Social Plastic® we are able to pay an above market rate to collectors and recyclers in the developing world and provide an incentive for people to clean up the environment.