WHAT IS OCEAN-BOUND PLASTIC?
Ocean-bound plastic is plastic waste found 50 km from our oceans on coastlines around the world. It has been scientifically proven (by Jenna Jambeck Phd and her research team in their ground-breaking 2015 article) that mismanaged plastic waste located within 50 km from our ocean has the highest likelihood of ending up in our oceans if not collected - hence they are “bound” for our oceans.
WHY DO OCEAN-BOUND PLASTIC EXIST?
It exists because, despite 50km of coastline around the world being an extremely small part of the total landmass in the world, it is home to 2bn people with industry and livelihood established because of the closeness to the ocean. It is the abundance of people and industry that drives the production and consumption of plastic, resulting in this small piece of landmass generating 1/3rd of the total plastic waste created in the world each year.
On top of this, majority of plastic that leaks into the oceans originates from a handful of Asian countries with communities that lack appropriate waste infrastructure, meaning that as plastics become waste, there is no proper collection and processing in place, resulting in it leaking into our oceans.
HOW IS OCEAN-BOUND PLASTIC DIFFERENT FROM OCEAN PLASTIC?
Its simple, ocean-plastic is plastic that has already ended up in our oceans and ocean-bound plastic is has not yet ended up in our oceans but is bound for the oceans if not collected.
WHY IS THE COLLECTION OF OCEAN-BOUND PLASTIC IMPORTANT?
Because ocean-bound plastic is at the last stage where we have the chance to collect it before entering our oceans. Collecting it here is incredibly important because when plastic waste enters our oceans it breaks up into smaller fragments that are both incredibly damaging to our oceans and wildlife, but also a lot more difficult/impossible to collect. Also, as plastic waste enters our oceans, being exposed to salt and sun, it has a more limited after-use than land-based plastic waste.
HOW CAN WE REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF OCEANBOUND PLASTIC AND CONSEQUENTLY PLASTIC IN OUR OCEANS?
There is no silver bullet to reducing plastic waste in our oceans and we need to look at solutions in combination that contribute to solutions from source to sea.
Engage & Inspire: In order to get people to change their habits, we need to raise awareness for the plastic pollution crisis and inspire people to want to change. The mindset of people need to change to both consume less and better but also to demand more from our government and corporates.
Prevention: : It is like the tap in an overflowing kitchen sink and we need to turn the tap off (or at least slow down the flow) in order to reduce the amount of plastic and particularly single use plastic we produce. With 40% of plastic produced being made for single-use purposes, we have to reduce our consumption of plastic whilst also finding alternative materials for come of the same uses without the same consequences.
Recycle: Despite getting a bad rep at times, recycling is incredibly important to reduce plastic waste from entering our oceans. That’s because even if we were able to reduce plastic production (through prevention) from 350mill tons to 200mill tons per year, for as long as we only recycle 10%, majority of plastic would still end up in nature and make its way into our oceans. This is why we need to increase recycling rates, specifically in particularly exposed counties that currently lack appropriate infrastructure.
Clean-up: This should really be the last solution we should need to consider, but considering that we have not been doing a good enough job at preventing the production of plastic and waste and recycling capabilities are below par, we are forced to increase our clean-up efforts in order to reduce plastic in our oceans.
There is no one solution to reducing ocean-bound plastic waste and plastic waste entering our oceans, but we can all do something towards the solution, from source to sea.
Written by the Nature Unite team