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Can the G7 Solve the Problem of Too Much Plastic in Our Oceans?
In the time it takes for G7 leaders to meet at the picturesque Charlevoix, Quebec location for their annual summit which lasts 28 hours, some 22,000 tonnes of plastic will have been dumped into the world’s oceans.
Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the sea. That’s equal to one garbage truck full of plastic every minute, 24/7/365.
And it’s piling up in great floating plastic islands that are found in every ocean on the planet, it’s piling up on the world’s beaches, and it’s sometimes ingested by fish and other aquatic life which sometimes kills them or causes them medical distress.
This problem didn’t suddenly appear. Since plastic was invented in 1907, billions of tonnes of the stuff has wound up in rivers, lakes, oceans, and the world’s land-based garbage dumps.
Nor will this problem disappear anytime soon as some kinds of plastic can exist in nature for 400-years.
OUR GENERATION… MUST PUT IT RIGHT.
NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO DO IT FOR US.
WE’RE ALONE WITH THE MONSTER YOU AND ME CREATED.
Stop putting so much plastic in the ocean!
It’s easy to switch to biodegradable plastics for everything from drinking straws and cutlery, to plates and coffee cups, instead of continuing to use the millions of tons of plastic equivalents every day.
“An Indian startup called Bakeys has come up with an edible alternative.
Their brand of edible spoons, knives and chopsticks are baked rather than manufactured, and even come in a number of different flavours including celery, black pepper and cumin. If you don’t like the taste, then the cutlery will safely biodegrade in just five days. The company launched a kickstarter campaign which raised over $250,000, well above the initial target of $20,000. They have now invested in a new production line and shipped over 3 million items. The founder believes that with scale, the edible spoon will soon cost the same as the plastic alternative. “So now the cutlery is tasty, fun, nutritious and environmentally friendly,” said the founder Narayana Peesapahty.” — World Economic Forum
If we stop putting so much plastic waste into the ocean we might actually be able to get ahead of the problem and solve it.
It’s not only plastic dinnerware that can be made biodegradable, packaging materials, bedding, and many other products can be manufactured using materials that break down in the environment, such as the ubiquitous shopping bags which are a menace to sea life.
Click on this link to get up-to-speed on the different kinds of environmentally friendly shopping bags.
Check here if you want to purchase biodegradable and compostable shopping bags made from corn cellulose.
As half of all plastic in the world’s oceans are fast-food and shopping-bag related, if we switch to biodegradable or compostable equivalents we will have solved HALF THE PROBLEM regarding future plastic waste.
It’s clearly a G7 and developed-nation problem!
Scoop it up, crush it, and incinerate it!
As most of the plastic in the global ocean floats on top of the surface or within 25 feet of the surface, it’s reasonable that purpose-built machines could scoop up the plastic, crush it, and package it in tight bundles.
Once a ship has been filled with waste plastic, a number of things can be done with it.
The most efficient modality is to incinerate it at high temperature (800 celsius) to completely break the plastic down into its constituent atoms — which is the scientific way of saying that the exhaust plume will be non-toxic.
Some CO2 will be produced during incineration. But toxic gases? Barely measurable even by the most modern and sophisticated equipment.
Many advanced incinerators burn trash at 800C to produce many MegaWatts of electricity.
In Sweden, it’s the law that all trash that can’t be recycled must be incinerated — and citizens and companies can face steep fines for not turning-in their non-recyclable trash for incineration.
The recycling programme in Sweden also offers offbeat TV commercials to remind people to recycle and conserve.
On Swedish TV, sandwiched between other commercials, the Pantamera videos try to encourage people to return used bottles and cans to grocery stores – ‘panta mera’ means ‘recycle more’.
Sweden’s Pantamera programme saves millions of tonnes of trash from ending up in landfills and it saves the Swedish government millions of Krona per year. The bonus is that Swedes have a reliable supply of cheap renewable electricity as evermore European countries export their waste to Sweden.
The Job of Every G7 Leader: Turning ‘Problems’ into Opportunities
If G7 governments portray waste and plastic in the oceans as an onerous and unsolvable problem, that’s how their citizens will view the problem.
But as we see in Sweden, by showing leadership and making it fun for citizens to participate in solving the trash problem, waste in Sweden and the related problem of plastic in Swedish coastal waters have been completely eliminated — at a profit.
In fact, the Swedes over-achieved so well in regards to handling their ‘trash problem’ there’s only one ‘problem’ left to solve…
Sweden needs even more trash from European countries, because incinerating it is a cheap and clean way to produce electricity. Which is a nice ‘problem’ to have!
By any standard, the Swedish ‘Waste-to-Energy’ example is a ‘Win-Win-Win’ and that’s how G7 leaders should approach their similar and dissimilar problems.
If little Sweden (population 10 million) can achieve all that in only a few years time, imagine what the combined power of the G7 nations could accomplish should they turn their attention to the ‘problem‘ of plastic in the world’s oceans!
Allow me to make a prediction.
And there’s a simple reason for it; U.S. President Donald Trump feels that every organization to which his country belongs has ‘taken advantage of the United States’ for decades and the only way to ‘stop the hemorrhaging’ is to quit all those institutions — perhaps forever.
Even if the U.S. decides to retain its UN membership for a time, my point will have been made.
Perhaps the Trump administration will explain its position in an ongoing conversation at the United Nations as to why it’s leaving the other institutions first and then quit the United Nations body last as a final snub to the world community.
Although these undertakings haven’t yet come to fruition, signs are forming that President Trump and his supporters may go the entire distance in separating the United States from the Rest of the World — and that’s especially true if he receives a second mandate via the 2018 midterms and a third mandate courtesy of American voters in 2020.
On the Way Out the Door, Grab Everything You Can!
Enroute to leaving every multilateral organization and trade agreement on the planet, Donald Trump the negotiator may tell his people to extract every possible concession, from every possible country, every step of the way.
If you think he won’t… sorry, you’re laughably naive.
Remember, Donald Trump thinks that every country in the world takes advantage of American largesse every day of the year! A team of Harvard lawyers couldn’t convince him otherwise. Therefore, why would he want to stay in any of those political or free trade agreements?
For Mr. Trump, interim negotiations seem nothing more than the necessary steps toward his goal of quitting those institutions completely.
The U.S. Midterm Elections Will Accelerate or Decelerate Trump’s Plans
The U.S. midterm election results will set the course for the next two years as all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested and if the Republicans win big, expect Trump’s isolationist plans to accelerate accordingly.
If the Trump team does well, every country that trades with the United States better have a solid ‘Plan B’ ready to implement the day following the U.S. midterm election. A year later just won’t cut it. This President moves fast.
For G7 and G20 countries, this means ramping-up trade with each other in an attempt to replace the great American marketplace where billions of dollars of foreign goods are purchased every day.
For developing countries, not much will change as most of them have only tiny trade links with the United States.
What Can G7 and G20 Countries Do?
Having failed to grasp the full extent of the Trump determination to pull back from the rest of the world, some countries seem uncertain about what to do next, while others think it will simply ‘blow over’ and business will soon return to normal.
But in Donald’s world, if you’re willing to sign an actual trade deal with his country he then feels he’s left too much money on the table and we’re right back to where we started — the world is taking advantage of the United States and America must never sign such an agreement!
Countries that run large trade surpluses with the United States may start to notice curtailed trade with America, therefore every country must plan for changes in that trading relationship, because, like the song says, ‘The times, they are a changin’ and it’s no fun being stuck with tens of billions of dollars of stuff that you can’t export’ — because U.S. tariffs have made your goods too expensive or the U.S. border is closed to your exports.
For countries with a less than $10 billion trade surplus with the United States, you’re probably pretty safe (for now) unless you start waving a red flag at the Commander in Chief. But if you’re a country that runs double-digit or triple-digit trade surpluses with the Americans, it’s officially time to panic.
Strengthen non-U.S. Trading Relationships Now
Perhaps using the recently-signed CETA deal between Canada and the EU as a template, G20 countries could begin to strengthen their trading relationships with each other to the extent that they could survive America severely curtailing their trade. (If it comes to that)
‘Surely that’s an unreachable goal’ some might say, but even if countries miss the ‘unreachable goal’ by 50%, they’re still better off compared to not making the attempt.
Even if it takes the Trump team five years to wrestle trade deficits down to a manageable level (think; $10 billion/yr per country) and even if it takes ten long years for countries to find replacement markets for much of the goods and services they presently sell to the U.S., they’ll still be glad they invested the time and effort.
Countries with double-digit or triple-digit trade surpluses with America that get ahead of the curve are more likely to survive it better, while countries that don’t diversify may find themselves neck-deep in their own exports.
Final thought? As the United States pulls back from the world, countries that double-down on building their Commonwealth/EU/BRICS trade links will rejoice.