I watched this documentary a few (2? 3? pandemic time means nothing) months ago as part of a group watch and discussion event hosted by Waste Free YEG. Upon regisrering, they sent everyone a time-sensitive link to watch the documentary, then folks could join in to a virtual group discussion together. There were breakout rooms so the discussions could be a little bit more meaningful, with more participation. It was all-in-all a great experience.
First and foremost, to be able to chat with other folks who are passionate about and interested in the same things as I am was refreshing and invigorating. And the documentary itself was inspiring, and expanded my knowledge on plastic waste and the farce that is our global recycling industry. The primary focus of the documentary was on the discrepancy between the global North and South when it comes to who creates the waste, who deals with the waste, and where the blame gets planted.
From the small group discussion I gathered that a lot of folks were unaware of the scope of the problem, and I loved watching folks learn! The more people who know this stuff, the more we can collectively take steps to address the issue.
DID YOU KNOW? 5 PLASTIC WASTE FACTS THAT BLOW MY MIND
3 billion pounds of plastic water bottle waste is added to landfills worldwide every year
Shoppers across the globe use ~500 million single-use plastic bags per year, which is about 150 bags per person
Plastic breaks up into smaller and smaller microplastics, which have been found in drinking water and the air
In Canada, we only recycle about 9% of our plastic waste
The estimated cost of cleaning up plastic pollution in the Great Lakes area alone is $468 million per year
MY LIGHT BULB MOMENT
My light bulb moment came when they interviewed Shibu Nair, a zero waste expert and activist in Kerala, India who linked the recycling industry back to poverty! I felt the BOOM in my head! The more I follow diverse voices in the "environmental justice" field the more I am seeing just how closely everything is connected. Every article or video peels back another layer for me. Sometimes I feel myself slipping into a philosophizing moment, but this is real life for so many folks around the world. They don't have the luxury of looking at this problem as a thought exercise. I have to watch for those thoughts and push them toward empathy and action instead.
I've listed some sites below that will can give you a place to start in the grand scheme of things, but if you want to do something small in your own home, here are three easy, no cost actions you can take this week to recognize and start to reduce your plastic usage and waste.
1) At the grocery store: buy the option in a glass bottle/jar instead of plastic and use fabric bags (or no bags) for your produce
2) Online shopping: in notes to seller request a paper mailer instead of a plastic bag
3) At home: wait until the evening before or the morning of waste collection day to help prevent your garbage and recyclables bags from busting open and making a big mess
And here's a bonus item: STOP BUYING BOTTLED WATER!
Note: I know that not everyone has the same access to grocery stores, variety of products, and cash money to make swaps or reduce their plastic usage. But I also know that many of you reading this absolutely do have that privilege, so now is the time to spend it.
There are a lot of great resources on The Story of Plastic website. Watch the trailer, the see how you can take action.
Environmental Defence has put together some ideas on how Canada can deal with our plastic pollution, including asking the government to create a national plastics strategy. Sounds delicious. This is another one where you could email our PM and Environment Minister to let them know how you feel! And if that's not up your alley they have a whole list of actions posted depending on your specific interests or location.
NRDC has posted a great list of 10 ways to reduce plastic pollution.
The stats I posted above are from:
National Geographic (you need to create a free account)
Oceana (Canadian-specific info)