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G7 – Please Save Our Seas!

by John Brian Shannon

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.


 


SOLUTION #1

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!


SOLUTION #2

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!