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Zero Waste Series: Plastic Pollution Solutions

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Life + Learning

  • two hands holding shells and plastic bits

Jennifer, Clemens Mill | June 15, 2020

When Boyan Slat went snorkelling as a teenager on a trip to Greece, he realized he was seeing more plastic bags than fish. Since that day he has been compelled to make things better for the life of the ocean, and the world. Slat, a Dutch inventor and entrepreneur, started The Ocean Cleanup. He designed an ocean cleaning system made up of screens that flow along with the water, catching plastic as they travel.

Over the past couple of years, Slat made a discovery. He learned that 80% of the plastic in the oceans comes from 1% of the world’s rivers (1000 rivers). In response to this, he built The Interceptor, a device that catches the plastic in rivers before it is able to enter the ocean. There are two interceptors currently at work in Indonesia and Malaysia, and within five years Slat hopes to scale up to target the rivers that are the highest polluters.

You might be thinking, but we recycle, right? Even though some plastic gets recycled, the majority of it ends up in landfills and waterways, and ultimately, the food chain. There are many things that we can do to help, starting with being conscious of the amount of plastic we use.

If you’d like to help in some way, but you aren't sure where to start, why not take the Plastic Free July challenge? This is a way that many people can make a major impact. Together, we can cut down on our usage of the top four plastic offenders—bags, cups, bottles and straws. Here are some ways to start:

  1. Wash your plastic bags (milk bags and ziptop bags), and then dry them on a bag dryer and when they are dry, keep them in a designated, “bag drawer.”
  2. Buy a reusable water bottle and keep refilling it with filtered water, instead of buying cases of disposable water bottles.
  3. Pack a litterless lunch using reusable containers, cloth napkins and real cutlery.
  4. Use Mason jars for carrying food to work in, like yogurt, and hummus. Use the larger ones to carry in your morning coffee or smoothie. Also use them to store leftovers in your fridge, instead of covering bowls with plastic wrap.
  5. Refill your bottles of shampoo, body lotion and dish soap at a refill station such as Molloy’s a local Bulk Refill and Soap Supply store. Check out their website to learn about their products, which includes shampoo bars, dryer balls, stainless straws, bees’ wax wrap, and bamboo toothbrushes. Molloy's in Cambridge has recently reopened, please check their website for details.
  6. Be mindful about what you buy, and try to buy things that do not come with a lot of plastic packaging.
  7. Try Tru Earth laundry soap that comes in strips that dissolve in your washing machine. These are packaged in a plastic-free, compostable cardboard sleeve, which also doubles as a shipping envelope. It’s also a Canadian company.
  8. Buy a reusable straw. They come in glass, stainless steel, and bamboo. Some of them come with a carrying case and cleaning brush. When you order a drink at a restaurant, say “no straw.”
  9. Consider using cloth diapers instead of disposables.
  10. Use the larger milk bags (the colourful, outer ones) to make “plarn" (plastic yarn), and then use it to make creative things such as sleeping mats, handbags, and even flip flops.

Start out with one thing on this list, and then try to take on more. Every little bit helps. Not only will you be helping the oceans, the sea turtles, and other sea life, but you will also be starting a small ripple in the world that might just become a wave.