Chopped by Benard Ogembo

How Plastic Pollution is a death sentence and why we should Rethink the Strategy.

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If you stroll into your kitchen today, pretty much everything, in some way or another, is made of plastic.

Your favorite cup and even the package keeping those blueberries fresh, the plastic bags you stuff into a drawer. But despite plastic's ubiquity, we fail to understand where it originates.

Indeed, when it comes to plastic our efforts seem to be much more focused on ends of life circle more than before we use it.

To put things into perspective, it all starts in an oil refinery or a fracking site. Plastics are basically just fossil fuels in solid form. It is estimated that 99 percent of plastics are made from chemicals rooted in fossil fuels.

The plastic creation process begins with crude oil, coal, or natural gas, which is then refined and distilled or "cracked" into usable chemical compounds such as Ethylene or Benzene. Of course there are certain plastics that are the product of recycled goods.

The key thing here is that the plastic that we use so heavily is really the same as the petroleum we put in our cars or the natural gas we use to heat our homes. Which is one of the reasons why the fossil fuel industry loves plastics.

It is estimated that in 2020, 23 million to 34 million tonnes of plastic waste will enter the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans. That is roughly the weight of 21,000 rail locomotives.

Back in the year 2015, the world agreed that eight million tonnes of plastic waste contaminating the ocean alone was unacceptable.

Several international platforms appeared to address the crisis, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Our Ocean, and the G7 Ocean Plastic Charter, among others.

All these commitments sound too ambitious, but will they meaningfully solve and reduce plastic pollution?

A new research published in Science shows that even if governments around the world adhere to their global commitments to address plastic pollution, and all others join in these efforts, in 2030 we will still emit between 20 million and 53 million tonnes of plastic waste into the world’s aquatic ecosystems.

If you analyze this carefully, you will notice the global commitments do not match the scale of the problem, which brings as to why we need to rethink our strategy.

Some of these plastic pollution practices are fuelled by bad policies that give companies access to the raw materials used to make plastics today.

For example, oil and ethane gas, often without approval, and that directly endanger the environment. Thousands of toxic chemicals used in plastics production are unregulated. Some of these toxic are a health risk.

I want to say that getting out of this plastic mess will need policies that dissuade the unabated extraction of resources and ensure companies are responsible for the life cycle of their plastic products.

Above all, the real solution is to stop producing too much plastic.

Chopped by

Benard Ogembo

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