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Wondering why 1 Million Women is always telling you to live a plastic free life? Here’s why the plastic problem is a climate change problem too.
We all know by now that plastic pollution is a huge problem. The reasons plastic became so popular in our society are the same reason it is so damaging. It's durable, cheap to make and longlasting. The low cost of plastic has meant its production has rapidly increased since the 1940's. But it's longevity means that every single piece of plastic ever made still exists on the planet today and will likely exist for the next 400 years. It clogs landfill, pollutes ecosystems, chokes the ocean and is even entering our food chain.
So what does this have to do with climate change? Well there are two big points to make here. One is obvious, the other is a bit more subtle.
1. Carbon pollution
The plastic industry creates billions and billions of tonnes of carbon pollution every year, which is the key cause of climate change. For starters, most plastic is made from oil or gas which are fossil fuels that in turn use other fossil fuels to be extracted from the ground. Then there's the transportation, manufacturing and disposal of the plastic to account for.
Take 'disposable' plastic water bottles for example. The carbon footprint of one of these bottles is 82.8 grams of carbon. It doesn't sound like much per bottle, but when you consider we consume 563 billion single use plastic water bottles every year it starts to add up. That means every year, production, transportation and consumption of plastic water bottles produces 46 billion tonnes of carbon pollution.
And that's only one kind of plastic in one year. Imagine the impact of all the plastics we've ever created and continue to create.
2. A common cause
These two problems are intrinsically linked because of their cause.
Climate change and plastic pollution are both symptoms of a world that values money, over consumption and convenience at the expense of everything else.
We've become used to the luxury of having big comfortable cars, being able to fly around the world and leave all our lights on in our house. We've gotten used to going to the shop, buying a drink in a plastic bottle and walking out with it in a plastic bag. We've even gotten used to the idea that milk, juice, rice, tea, pasta, and most other things should come wrapped in plastic packaging. Some of us understand the implications of our actions but we've become so addicted to convenience that we can't or won't make a change.
And big companies are relying on our participation in this system. Big oil gas and coal companies continue to make huge amounts of money from energy production even though we know it's harming our planet. Big companies that rely on plastic (think Coca-Cola) also make a lot of money from us using things once and throwing them away and refuse to change even though we know plastic is damaging our world.
It's not the plastic or the coal, gas and oil that is the problem - it's our attitude towards it and the way we continue to use it that is causing the most damage to our world.
Rather than sticking with what we know we should be doing what humans have been doing for millions of years: evolving and finding better ways of doing things. We need to be examining our relationship with plastics and fossil fuels and assessing where or if they are needed anymore.
We should start treating plastic like the valuable resource it is, rather than something that is used once and thrown away. Instead of using plastic for everything and anything, we could limit it to use in medicine and hospitals where plastic can be lifesaving in terms of preventing contamination and disease.
We should be making things to last rather than making things to break and be replaced a year later (thanks a lot Apple). We should be mending clothes and wearing them for years rather than throwing out an outfit after one wear. We should be taking the bus or train or riding to work if we can. We should be prioritising the health of our planet over the profits of multibillion dollar companies, not the other way around.
Here at 1 Million Women that's what we want to combat. We aim to help people live their lives with the least impact on the planet, whether that be not eating meat, flying less, buying less plastic or buying nothing at all. Problem like plastic pollution and climate change don't exist in isolation. They all stem from the way we as a society live our lives day to day.
That's why raising your voice and changing the way you live your life makes a huge difference, especially when we do it all together!
We're in a climate emergency and it's going to take all of us to get out of it. That's why 1 Million Women is building a global community of women committed to fighting climate change with our daily actions. To join the (free) movement just click the button below!