Part Two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.
The past year has seen a significant uptick in concern by activists, companies and others about the impacts of plastic pollution on people and the environment. With that concern has come an impressive spate of commitments to reduce, if not eliminate, plastic waste.
Altogether, they are necessary but insufficient.
What will it take to truly address the challenge? Despite what many activists — and probably most of the public — think, it’s not simply a matter of declaring plastics verboten and moving on to something else. Plastics are too interwoven into our world, and offer too many societal benefits, including many that fall within the sustainability realm: reducing food waste and spoilage; improving health care services; reducing infant mortality; cutting energy use and others.
And there’s disagreement even among environmentalists whether the focus should be on eliminating plastic waste or plastics altogether. One of those goals is achievable, albeit over a decade or two. The other, not so much.
You might think that the recent wave of plastics bans by companies, cities and others might placate activist groups. Of course, you’d be wrong. Indeed, the activists seem emboldened on a number of fronts and, while declaring victory in some skirmishes in the global war on plastic pollution, they understand that there are many more, and bigger, battles ahead.
In recent months, I’ve spoken with more than a dozen activists, companies and others about the challenges of plastic pollution and what to do about it. There’s no silver bullet. Far from it. Rather, it will take a combination of innovations, incentives and pressures from activists, consumers and the public sector. It’ll also require collaboration across multiple sectors and interests in the private sector, including among competitors, as well as out-of-the-box thinking on the part of all involved.
Perhaps most of all, it will take persistence and patience.
That last commodity may be the one in shortest supply, especially given the growing concerns about plastics in the environment, and particularly in rivers, lakes and oceans, where they harm ecosystems and disrupt food chains. There’s no shortage of research documenting the scope and severity of the problems, including the impacts on human health. And as consumerism takes hold in new corners of the planet, with rising standards of living leading to increased consumption and waste, the problem is bound to get worse before it gets better.
But there are glimmers of hope throughout the economy and around the world.
Read more at GreenBiz