Four human benefits of using waste management to stop ocean plastic

An estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year. That’s a truckload of rubbish a minute. To mitigate this crisis we must move towards proper waste management. Every lever must work effectively from reduction to reuse to innovation. When the core elements of waste management are met, a huge leap towards a clean ocean will be made and human life will be improved in the process.

Effect on underwater life

Plastic is an engrained staple of daily living. The durability and low cost are beneficial when being used - yet cause widespread problems once discarded. Plastic is travelling to the world oceans, where it takes centuries to break down. It becomes part of marine ecosystems affecting up to 700 species. Animals ingesting plastic are prone to stunted growth, tumours, less successful reproduction and lower ability to protect against predators.

Improving ocean health would dramatically decrease these harmful effects, while simultaneously improving health, jobs, climate and economy.

Health benefit

Developing regions are vulnerable to typhoons and flooding. Improving waste management systems decreases the risk of infectious diseases spreading, reduces livestock and fish stock contamination and decreases respiratory illnesses caused from burning trash. Proper waste management enhances public health conditions through improved sanitation, reduced waste burning and removing breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

Job growth

The informal waste economy employs up to 1% of the urban population in developing regions. Increasing waste management activities in larger cities has the potential to increase up to 76,000 jobs over 10 years in focal counties. Plastics For Change employs an army of waste-pickers who collect discarded plastic before it travels to the ocean. We provide sustainable livelihoods for the urban poor who help collect plastic on land before it enters surrounding water bodies.

Climate action

Oceans play a fundamental role in mitigating climate change. The sea absorbs harmful toxins and releases oxygen. Proper waste management systems can help preserve ocean health and reduce an economy’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 10-15%. Reduction of emissions and conservation pends on proper waste management. Implementing these systems can aid the transition towards carbon neutrality.

Economic benefit

Poor waste management has disastrous economic loss. Ocean plastic is causing an estimated 1.3 billion economic loss to the tourism, fishing and shipping in Asia-Pacific alone. Investing in better waste management ensures the survival of these industries and also expansion of jobs in the waste sector. Most of the economic value of plastic is lost after its first use. Currently up to $120 billion worth of plastic is lost to the economy. Effective waste management would turn this around and help encourage a circular economy.

Improving the health of our oceans is vital for our survival. Effective waste management mitigates the ocean plastic crisis while simultaneously improving job growth, health, climate change and the economy. There has never been a more exciting time to invest in waste management solutions and be part of the change. Click here to activate your corporate purpose and be part of the change.


The Ocean Conservancy: