Saving two birds with the same carbon


Two of the biggest threats facing our marine eco-systems come from ocean acidification and plastic pollution. But, are these problems interrelated? And if so how can we fight the both threats at the same time?

The evil twin of climate changes is ocean acidification. The more carbon emissions the ocean absorbs the more acidic it becomes. We really have no idea just how devastating this change in acidity level will be in the future.

You can think of plastics pollution as an equally evil nephew of climate change.  This problem is most severe in developing countries that lack recycling infrastructure. It is common in many parts of the world for plastic to be dumped into our oceans and rivers. But how is plastic waste related to climate change?

Fighting climate change and plastic pollution through recycling.

The fall of oil prices has made it cheaper for companies to use virgin plastic (new plastic from oil) rather than recycled plastic. The decreased demand for recycled plastic has had a detrimental impact on the development of recycling infrastructure, especially in high poverty regions.  The low demand for the recycled plastic is killing jobs for urban waste pickers and leads to increased levels of environmental contamination.  India alone relies on 1.5 million waste pickers who make a living from collecting discarded plastics.

The increased production of new virgin plastic is accelerating Co2 emissions. Approximately  around 8% of the world’s annual oil supply goes to the production of plastic, 4% of which is actually used in energy consumption to make the plastic. This equals over 7 million barrels of oil a day or one Olympic size swimming pool every 4 minutes.  To put this in perceptive, it takes about 1/4 of a liter of oil to produce a 1 liter water bottle.

oil used
oil used

Changing lives through fair trade recycling.

Plastics For Change has developed a model for addressing the root cause of plastic pollution while creating jobs through recycling.

The organization has developed a fair trade transaction platform for the plastic recycling supply chain in developing counties which ensures waste picker recyclers receive a fair monetary value for the discarded plastic they collect.

Simply put, increasing the value of discarded plastics helps prevent environmental contamination, boosts global recycling rates and creates dignified employment to reduce extreme poverty. Management estimates that recycling one ton of plastics saves 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil and 98 million Btu's of energy. To prevent ocean acidity and global warning we must take massive action curb emissions. There is a huge potential to do this through recycling. Please share if you agree.