2017: The Year We Started to Turn the Corner on Plastic Pollution

by John Hocevar

December 15, 2017

As bad as the plastic pollution problem is these days, there are still many reasons to be hopeful. Check out the good news from 2017, and see how you can help.

Plastic waste is seen washed ashore in the Truk Lagoon, Micronesia.

© Robert Marc Lehmann / Greenpe

Ok, listen – plastic pollution is a huge problem, and there was a lot of new evidence that surfaced in 2017 which showed just how bad it is. There was a lot of really good news in 2017 too, though – enough that we may be close to reaching a tipping point. Take a look at these examples, and decide for yourself.

People often tell me that they do what they can to limit their use of plastic, but that they don’t feel like it makes any difference because the real problem is in places like Asia and Africa. 2017 was a good reminder that in many cases, countries in Asia, Africa, and South America are doing more than the U.S. and that we have some catching up to do. In India, 17 states and union territories banned plastic bags. Delhi, the world’s second-largest city, went even farther, with a ban on all single-use plastics. Costa Rica announced they will become the first country to ban single-use plastics. Kenya and Rwanda became the 14th and 15th African nations with some form of ban on single-use plastic bags.

A garbage separation worker in India is only one person dealing with the tons of garbage produced throughout the country on a daily basis.

Alternatives to plastics are becoming hot items, with new options for refillable dental floss and even furniture. And while reusable bottles and refill stations are likely to remain the most sustainable option, people have also been working on developing truly biodegradable bottles – like this one made out of seaweed extract. Many new alternatives are emerging from the global south, like these awesome edible forks and spoons created by an entrepreneur from Hyderabad.

Water refill stations are becoming more popular around the globe.

One of the amazing things about 2017 was just how quickly the good news kept coming. Seattle is getting rid of plastic straws. Chile announced that they are banning plastic bags. Water bottle refilling stations are becoming standard features in airports and bus stations. There were way too many good news stories to include here. The important thing now is what we do with all this momentum.

But what about the corporations responsible for producing all this throwaway plastic packaging? We’ve been talking to a lot of executives this year, and they are all aware that plastic pollution is a problem and that their companies must take more responsibility. From Unilever and Nestle to Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, corporations are discussing RIGHT NOW how much they need to change. New policies are being written, new ways to deliver products are being considered, and new measures are being piloted. How far we can push these guys is going to depend a lot on how many people they hear from – and how many people start refusing products packaged in throwaway plastic.

That’s where you can help! Tell the CEOs of seven of the biggest producers of single-use plastic that it is time for them to get serious about ending plastic pollution. And see what other actions you can take here. Together we have the power to turn the tide on plastic pollution!

John Hocevar

By John Hocevar

An accomplished campaigner, explorer, and marine biologist, John has helped win several major victories for marine conservation since becoming the director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign in 2004.

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