July 22, 2018

Plastic Planet


I bring climate change up in conversation because all the evidence tells me it’s the most important conversation to be had — if we don’t win the war on human-induced climate change, we don’t get to solve all the other important things either. But almost every time climate is raised in conversation — mostly by me — that conversation ends up turning to the problem of plastic.

So let’s talk about plastic, in three infographics. Let’s start with number one.

Plastic Planet Infographic Plastics

We’ll be releasing part two (Plastic Paradox) and part three (Plastic Paradise) over the next week. This one laid out some of the bad. The other two will lay out some of the good (plastics are great, sometimes) and then move on to the how we could do much better. In general, the issue of plastics is more nuanced than first appearances might have you know, but most encouragingly, the solutions are achievable. They’re also localised.

The following statement could seem like blasphemy, but for most of those reading this from the developed world, levies on plastic bags are better for our conscience than they are for our environment. The real damage is being wrought in the developing world (as the river systems fact so soberingly points out above). It’s pretty alarming to think that just 10 river systems carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean, yet very few of those rivers’ governments can afford basic waste management. We’ll take a closer look at some of the solutions that have been proposed by champion organisations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Once we’ve explored plastics from a few different angles, please watch out for an article preliminarily titled the ‘Plasticity of Climate Change’. It’s still in research mode. When released, it will look at the public’s contemporary outrage for eye-sore plastic pollution and compare it against public perceptions of the more invisible (and less tangible) problem of climate change. As a spoiler, climate change is the infinitely more important issue. In fact, they probably shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath, but let’s wait and see what the research really says.

In the meantime, here’s a brilliant ‘In a Nutshell’ video about plastic pollution from one of our planet’s media treasures, Kurzgesagt. It comes highly recommended.