Don't blame the plastics industry for marine waste
Posted on 20 October 2014
The way some people argue it you would think that you – yes you, working in the plastics industry – are to blame for every living creature that dies as a result of ingesting or being caught up in discarded plastic.
The billions of plastic caps, closures, bottles, bungs, automotive components, toys and whatnot being made every week are a source of shame, some would have you believe.
We hear from time to time talk of the Pacific Gyre, where a mass of waste plastic the size of Texas is said to be floating near Hawaii, although some dispute the size and scale of the offending ‘island’.
What few people in the anti-plastic camp will acknowledge is the main culprit for this sort of waste ending up in the world’s oceans or on its beaches is the consumer.
Do injection machinery makers, polymer distributors, hopper manufacturers or well known High Street brands that use plastic packaging or car makers who create more fuel efficient vehicles via the use of plastic dump this rubbish in the world’s oceans?
No, they don’t. But many people think that as part of the plastics industry they are to blame. And few commentators challenge this view.
With this in mind I would like to raise a glass (and sorry people, but it’s a glass glass, not a plastic glass) to one Neil Jameson, a writer on the Australian news website the Newcastle Herald.
True, in a recent article he describes that 75% of the “crap” that litters many of Australia’s beaches as being plastic-derived, and yes, he cites the fact that plastics production shows “no sign of slowing” and more birds and marine animals will end up with small bits of plastic in their guts, with often mortal results.
But rather than lambasting the plastics industry as is often the case in such pieces he highlights that a new report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has found that instead of such plastic waste drifting onto the country’s beaches from faraway lands via ocean currents the majority of coastal rubbish comes from…Australia.
“Yep,” he writes, “we’re crapping in our own nest.”
The CSIRO report concludes that the two main drivers behind marine debris were general public behaviour and illegal dumping.
Jameson urges good-minded Australians to take a bag – presumably a plastic one – with them the next time they stroll along their favourite beach and to collect as much plastic waste as they can and dispose of it properly.
A very laudable call to make, I think you’ll agree.
Even better would be for Australians and indeed people the world over to take their litter home with them. That, and for governments to crack down even harder on those who sail the globe's seas and think it acceptable to chuck their ‘crap’ over the side.
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