The downside is its proper disposal and handling after use. An increase in plastic production and consumption is accompanied by a growing volume of waste. If appropriate waste management infrastructure is not in place and if awareness for that problem of global proportions is not raised, most of the waste generated will end up in nature. There a quite a lot of initiatives in place that help freeing nature from littler, such as ocean clean ups. But addressing the ocean pollution crisis by widespread ocean clean-ups is not enough and only a short-term solution. In the long-term, the way plastics are produced, consumed and disposed of must be changed, a shift to a circular economy and away from the currently practiced make-take-dispose model of economy be realized - an important but complex process that requires cooperation between stakeholders along the entire value chain, including policy makers. The Alliance to End Plastic Waste for example brings together key stakeholders to jointly develop solutions to end plastic waste.
Another initiative, The New Plastics Economy aims at sparking a wave of action and innovation to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Besides various initiatives and organizations, policy makers have become active, as well. In 2019, the increasing volume of marine litter incentivized the EU to curb ocean pollution and implement a law banning the top 10 single-use plastics most often found on European beaches from 2021. The ban on single-use plastics includes plastics items such as cutlery, plates, straws etc. for which alternatives already exist on the market. These regulations in combination with existing collection systems, recycling technologies and individual action can make a difference and play a key role in turning our oceans to the blue beauty surrounding our continents and providing living space for marine life again.
The debris is clearly visible and trackable – there is no option to continue closing our eyes. We must start seeing plastics production, consumption, disposal and its subsequent management through a circular lens. Together, we can make a change!