Head of Oceans & Plastics, Greenpeace Canada
Humans have tipped the planet’s balance, and everyone is paying for it. We take too much, we make too much, and we waste too much, thanks to our linear system of consumption. This linear system and our throwaway culture aren’t, and never were, serving us or our planet. There is no “away” for our waste to go. Our natural systems have reached their limits.
We’re in a climate crisis. The state of our oceans is dire. Rapid and widespread biodiversity loss across ecosystems is weighing heavily on wildlife and nature lovers worldwide. The merging and amplification of global environmental crises isn’t a coincidence. The interconnectedness of our blue planet’s natural systems is both a strength and a weakness in the survival of life on Earth.
Plastic has emerged as an unfortunate player in our planet’s multi-system breakdown. Our reliance on plastic, mainly in single-use formats, contributes to the climate, oceans, and biodiversity crises and has created its own — the plastic waste and pollution crisis.
Almost all plastic is made from fossil fuels. From extraction to disposal, plastic creates harmful emissions. Recent studies also found that plastic emits even when it’s in the form of pollution. Without a halt in plastic production, greenhouse gas emissions related to plastic will continue to rise, which in turn puts more pressure on the oceans, which are already feeling the effects of a changing climate. Changing ocean conditions make it harder for species to be resilient against threats like plastic pollution, and marine biodiversity gets it at all angles.
We need a new system that’s truly circular instead of linear — one that rethinks, reduces, and reuses, instead of one that takes, makes, and wastes.
With so many massive problems to tackle, where’s a person supposed to start? While single-use plastic certainly isn’t the sole driver of the climate and oceans breakdowns, in our everyday lives it’s representative of a wasteful and careless culture we need to leave behind. By rejecting single-use plastic where possible, encouraging businesses to do the same, and joining a global movement of people calling for a ban on non-essential plastics, we can help curb our collective plastic and carbon footprint. More sustainable ways of receiving goods and services are all around us — we just need to embrace them and use our collective power to demand greener and healthier solutions.