Photo: Image of Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia. February 27th, 2020.
It is in your body right now
Each week, you are walking around with a credit card. This credit card is not in your pocket, safely stored in your wallet or a purse. This credit card is in your stomach, in the form of plastic granules. Every week you could be consuming 1,769 particles of plastic every week from water alone. You could also be consuming this plastic from that salmon steak you had at your favorite restaurant or from the fruit you buy at your favorite grocery store.
We all know of the negative effects that plastic is having on the environment and even if we are aware of the negative effects it has on our bodies, we still continue to use it.
Straws are being banned in most restaurants but, that hasn’t halted straw manufacturing. Even if you know that turtles are dying from plastic, that won’t curtail your use of it. Even if you know that you’re swallowing thousands of plastic particles a week, you won’t be able to detect the source of those particles.
There are benefits to plastic
There are many benefits that we get from using plastic. Plastic containers allow for more distribution of food across societies. Without plastic, it would be harder to get food from major supermarket chains.
Plastic also helps to ensure that we don’t get sick from the food and drinks we consume. It prevents harmful bacteria from getting into our bodies.
The global plastic industry is also extremely lucrative. If you work in distribution or manufacturing you could have a share of a $16.7 billion pie by 2023. Plastic is used in the food, packaging, construction, electrical, and transportation industries.
Plastic is used in almost every facet of our lives, this is why there is a lot of friction when it comes to asking society to stop using it. Until it becomes more lucrative to create a biodegradable replacement to plastic, things won’t change. After all, change happens faster when there is a big financial incentive involved.
How removal is handled in Indonesia
An immediate example of how plastic removal isn’t effective in many countries is to look at the island of Bali, Indonesia. In beaches of Kuta and Uluwatu, what were once beautiful and clean surfing scenes, are now covered in trash.
One would assume that there would be a big financial incentive to the restaurants, surfing schools, and bars along the shore to invest in cleaning these beaches. Islands like these prosper from tourism, but it’s hard to make money from tourists if your beaches are dirty. However, whoever is in charge of cleaning has decided to simply drive trucks along the shore to bury the waste under the sand.
This method of “cleaning” certainly solves any cosmetic issues but, it doesn’t remove the plastic — which is what really has to happen. This highlights another underlying issue: there is a lack of global awareness when it comes to the effects of plastic.
Western countries, for the most part, seem to be more proactive when it comes to removing plastic from the oceans. I am confident that other countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, will begin to direct their resources to removal but not any time soon.
I don’t know what I can do to help fix this problem. However, I also didn’t know how bad this problem was until I saw it firsthand. If the beaches in Indonesia are as bad as they are currently, I wouldn’t be surprised that there are other countries with the same problem — handling it the same way.