Beyond Single-Use Plastics: A Recycling Initiative Addressing Durable Plastic Pollution
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Our oceans are suffocating in a man-made, rapidly spreading plastic debris soup due to our unchecked appetite for plastic consumption. Coupled with climate change, we are collectively facing a fatal combination of global environmental emergencies that is undeniably the greatest threat to our planet’s survival in the 21st century. Growing awareness about the unsustainable nature of single-use plastics like water bottles and straws is starting to galvanize worldwide actions to eliminate them for good. However, non-single-use, aka durable plastics are also very much part of our daily lives, for better or for worse, because of their proven usefulness and versatility. They are certainly everywhere: from tech hardware/accessories to children’s toys to medical supplies. We are frequently discarding smaller durable plastic products just like single-use plastics but worse – most residential recycling programs today do not accept durable plastics. Since we do not have a consistent and actionable solution to recover used durable plastics, they may end up being a greater polluter than single-use plastics in the near future.
The good news is we can stop it today. I’m here to start a public program to recycle durable plastic phone cases, an aggressively growing waste footprint considering how many of us use smartphones (1.5 billion were sold last year) and three out of four people bought at least one case during the device’s lifetime. From purchases made in 2017 alone, 50 million pounds of durable plastics will go straight to the landfills over the course of the next couple of years. That is enough to fill over 5,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, cover at least 80,000 NFL football fields, and wrap four times around Earth.
We can become the change now by reaching into our drawers and pulling out an old phone case (or two) that will otherwise end up in the trash. Send them to us instead of letting them go to landfills. Durable plastics can be efficiently recovered by a number of facilities if done so in bulk. We have sought out experts to weigh in, and unlike single-use plastic, recycled durable plastic is a vastly useful and popular material already found in many common items like coffee makers and car dashboards. Recycling durable plastic is also lower in cost and environmental impact than sourcing brand new material.
If we left a faucet running and flooded the house, our first response would be to turn off the faucet, not mop up the flood. To stop more plastic pollution we must repurpose what we have now. Please help us spread the good word by 1) signing and sharing our petition to raise awareness on the issue and 2) simply mailing your old phone cases to us (in a plain paper envelope is best to minimize waste every step of the way) at:
P.O. Box 370
Brookline, MA 02446-9998
A circular economy for plastics is a development supported by marine plastic pollution experts like the 5 Gyres Institute. Please check out Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Report to better understand the framework and why plastic products should never become waste but to be perpetually reused and recycled.
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Emily Wan needs your help with “Earth's Citizens: Non-Single-Use Plastics Need Our Attention Too! A Recycling Initiative”. Join Emily and 6,340 supporters today.