Everybody is familiar with ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ which is present in the North Pacific gyre, one of the five gyres of our ocean systems. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), more than 7,000,000 tons of garbage reaches the marine environment every year, approximately 80% of which comes from land. Plastic that does not sink is broken down into smaller polymers by sunlight and wave action which forms an every present ‘soup’ suspended in the upper layers. The size of this garbage patch is said to be twice the size of Texas.
Since the explosion of plastic waste however, the crisis is rapidly escalating. For examples, cultures that previously did not use plastic shopping bags have now started indulging in this ‘convenience’ and as the number of users grow, consequent problems also grow.
90% of plastics made today do not get recycled. It is a threat to marine life, birds, soil and water quality. Plastic is directly responsible for causing various health ailments like cancer and endocrine disorders. And worst of all, it is everywhere.
So what can we do about it?
Because of the issues of plastics and the need to curb its usage, the Clinton Global Initiative launched the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) in 2010. It aims to expand awareness about corporate’plastic footprints,’ carbon reporting initiatives, which quantify global warming impact.
According to their website:
The project will be motivated from the global asset management community whose investors are increasingly driven by socially responsible investment metrics. Based on a survey conducted by two MBA students at the Hong Kong University of Science in Technology on behalf of the PDP, managers with over US$5.8 trillion in assets under management have voiced their support for this initiative, with a 90% support rating from respondents.
The man behind the project is Doug Woodring, an environmental entrepreneur in Hong Kong. According the The New York Times, the initiative will officially launch in September.
PDP models itself after the Carbon Disclosure Project and Woodring plans to target big users of plastic, including companies, universities, hospitals and sports groups. The PDP will involve a questionnaire which will ask these organizations to calculate the plastic they use, their methods of recycling and plans to replace the material all together.
Woodring says: “What we’re trying to do is to have companies manage and use plastic much more wisely, and to receive recognition for doing so from both customers and investors. Once you’ve taken an inventory of your use for the first time, it’s easy to improve on it.”
The PDP does not aim to place blame. Rather, the organization seeks to create “baseline metrics, with transparent reporting of material use, so that companies can reduce wastage, improve design, change materials, and improve on recycling or remediation.”
According to industry estimates, 300 million tons of virgin plastic is made every year. If even 1% of that can be saved, it would equal to 3 million tons which is the same amount of plastic that exists in the garbage patch.
Image Credit: Top – Great Pacific Gyre, Wiki Commons. Bottom – PDP Logo