2020 put a halt to our lives in many different ways, but we didn’t let it stop our efforts to reduce plastic consumption.
8.3 billion tonnes of plastics are estimated to have been produced since the 1950s but we still don’t really know how much plastic is ending up in the environment. There is no data to provide a baseline data set to help everyday people understand key issues that will inform solutions, such as what types of plastics pollution are most prevalent in different locations and how trends are changing over time.
We have taken it upon ourselves to start projects in order to gather more data on plastic use, to reduce plastic production and consumption and to find ways to reuse or recycle plastic. The Earth Challenge is a global citizen science project which started on the 50th anniversary of earth day, April 22nd 2020. The project is researching six research areas including local air quality and plastic pollution. They are integrating existing datasets from around the world to make information more openly accessible and are creating a mobile application for citizens to create and share new data, and then take policy action to reduce plastic pollution worldwide. Essentially, it illustrates how citizens can inform impactful policy solutions and is an opportunity to mitigate plastic pollution worldwide by first understanding how it impacts citizens immediate communities. At the same time, it also illustrates the ways open and interoperable data can be leveraged for the future and demonstrates the potential impact when we bring data and people together to understand the world around us.
An architectural firm displayed The Art of Plastic in Bruges where they made a whale sculpture out of five tons of plastic that was gathered off the beaches in Hawaii. The creation of the artwork was documented in a short film and shows just how labor intensive the project was and exactly how much plastic was gathered throughout the project’s progression. Furthermore, this is something the architectural firm is known for, as they have created multiple art pieces that help raise awareness. Other artists have followed suit in creating art out of waste and thus, helping to increase plastic pollution awareness.
Ben Lecomte, a well known swimmer who swam across the atlantic in 1998, is currently swimming 5,500 miles from Tokyo to San Francisco in an expedition known as The Swim. Along his journey, Lecomte will be taking samples to help scientists study how plastic is affecting the ocean. Overall, this will be the first time that samples like this have been collected in these locations. However, it is most intriguing to read his logbook to discover exactly how much plastic he comes across daily as he continues his swim across the Pacific.
Plastic Roadways is a project started by MacRebur, which is now cnostructing roadways that are made from 100% waste materials and are used to replace part of the bitumen in any asphalt mix. Not only does this concept cut down on the amount of road construction that is needed, but it also decreases the amount of waste our population produces by recycling it into something needed by all. Including plasticc ales them long lasting and mroe sustainable.
It is expected that plastic production will double by 2050. In the United States, $203 billion has been invested in 343 new or expanded chemical plants to produce plastics, according to ACC figures published last February.
Despite these efforts, there has been an increase in the amount of plastic we are using due to the surge in disposable takeaway packaging used by restaurants all over the world. Despite this, companies are aiming to reduce their plastic consumption primarily through substitution towards other plastics or paper, or lightweight (often by reducing thickness), rather than by reducing the need for single-use packaging altogether.