The effects of plastic pollution on our oceans and land are becoming irrepressible. Enough plastic is tossed each year to circle the earth four times. Because disposed plastic materials can remain in the environment for up to 2,000 years and longer, plastic piles up in the environment and in ocean. In fact, at present it is estimates there are more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea.
The Big Problems
Plastic spoils our groundwater. There are long-term risks of contamination of soils and groundwater by some additives and breakdown by-products in plastics, which can become persistent organic pollutants.
Plastic poisons our food chain. Contaminated plastics, when ingested by marine species, present a credible route by which the POPs can enter the marine food web.
Plastic attracts other pollutants. Fish, exposed to a mixture of polyethylene with chemical pollutants absorbed from the marine environment, bioaccumulate these chemical pollutants and suffer liver toxicity and pathology.
Plastic affects human health. Two broad classes of plastic-related chemicals are of critical concern for human health: bisphenol-A or BPA and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates.
Plastic threatens wildlife. Over 260 species, including invertebrates, turtles, fish, seabirds and mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death.
Plastic costs billions to abate. The overall natural capital cost of plastic use in the consumer goods sector each year is US$75 billion.
There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean as per CityLab
Restaurant group Maximal Concepts are passionate about environmental sustainability, leading the way with a host of other conscious restaurant groups in Hong Kong in phasing out plastic waste. The effects are far-reaching and the process is easier than one might think.
Malcolm and his business partner Matt Reid are also passionate social entrepreneurs sitting on two charities’ board of directors, Hong Kong Shark Foundation and Plastic Oceans. They are currently producing a movie with Oscar-winning producer Adam Leipzig and director Craig Leeson that will change consumers’ behaviour from using plastic in such a destructive manner and informing us that it’s systemically poisoning our oceans, which in turn is impacting the human food supply chain. You can find more out here: https://www.facebook.com/PlasticOceans.
When it Comes to Straws
Straws do not biodegrade–they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces and will be around for hundreds of years in our environment, where marine life are particularly vulnerable to consumption and subsequent harm. They are a threat at every stage of their existence: production, use and disposal.
Maximal have already eliminated 98 per cent of all plastic packaging in the group and are working on getting the last two per cent out soon, offering reusable metal straws or biodegradable paper straws instead. As a result of this new policy, thousands of straws will be saved from going to the landfill and, inevitably, the water each year.
When it Comes to Takeaway Packaging
Local environmental campaigner Jo Wilson told Hong Kong FP recently that “people produce double digit pieces of trash — especially plastic — just by having lunch.” The problem culminates due to the culture of long works hours, the age old practice of using styrofoam packaging in the food and restaurant industry, and the disconcerting lack of public education around environmental issues.
Maximal encourages using only paper in takeaway boxes and cups instead of plastic versions and, further, uses only paper bags for takeaway. Even PLA biodegradable products cause serious problems in landfills with greenhouse gases and methane emissions. Given that, annually, 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide (that’s more than one million bags used every minute), this practice mitigates the impacts of plastic on the natural environment, where one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
Oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish by 2050 as per the Metro UK
When it Comes to Cutting Down and Cleaning up Plastic
Maximal are organizing beach clean-ups to get plastic out of the oceans and water systems, and participate in glass recycling programs, given the water sold in the venues is in glass bottles, not plastic.
When it Comes to Individuals Reducing Plastic Pollution
REFUSE disposable plastic whenever and wherever possible. Choose items that are not packaged in plastic, and carry your own bags, containers and utensils. Say ‘no straw, please.’
REUSE durable, non-toxic straws, utensils, to-go containers, bottles, bags, and other everyday items. Choose glass, paper, stainless steel, wood, ceramic and bamboo over plastic.
REDUCE your plastic footprint. Cut down on your consumption of goods that contain excessive plastic packaging and parts. If it will leave behind plastic trash, don’t buy it.
RECYCLE what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. Pay attention to the entire life cycle of items you bring into your life, from source to manufacturing to distribution to disposal.