There is no such thing as a small gesture!
15 February 2023
Single-use plastics are now recognized as one of the world's most pressing environmental threats. But progress at the global level to hold back the tide is far too slow. So what do we do? Do we give up? Certainly not...
Do you know the "magnifying effect"?
It is this phenomenon, accentuated by the algorithms of social networks, which gives you the illusion that a subject of particular interest to you (in this case, for me, the fight against ocean plastic pollution) has suddenly become THE subject that everyone is talking about, the one that monopolizes the headlines and focuses the attention of the whole world.
It is a magnifying effect that limits your field of vision and distorts your perception of reality.
For the last two or three years, environmental actors have had the impression that curbing plastic pollution in the oceans was becoming a real global political priority. That no State, no international institution, no company, no consumer doubted the urgency of the measures to be taken to preserve the Ocean and did not question the fact that these measures must be drastic. Between the One Ocean Summit, the World Ocean Summit, the Our Ocean conferences, the IUCN World Congress, the latest climate and biodiversity COPs, the start of negotiations for an international treaty against plastic pollution planned for 2024, initiatives and commitments have tended to multiply in recent months. Some people have given in to the temptation to believe that “this is it, the lines are moving, progress is accelerating, we’ve made it. We’re going to turn off the plastic tap at the source and tackle the issue of marine ecosystem restoration head on.”
A study by the Australian foundation MINDEROO, published in January 2023, reminded us of the sad reality. It titled: “Single-use plastic waste increased from 2019 to 2021 despite commitments made”.
Among other things, it says that the production of polluting single-use plastic grew by 6 million tons per year between 2019 and 2021 despite stricter global regulations, with producers making “little progress” in addressing the problem and boosting recycling. Although growth has slowed over the same period, single-use plastic production from virgin fossil fuel sources is still far from peaking, and the use of recycled feedstock remains “marginal at best,” the study says. About 137 million tons of single-use plastics were produced from fossil fuels in 2021, and that number is expected to increase by another 17 million tons by 2027, the researchers say.
According to this other index, we produce over 380 Mt of plastic annually, and up to 50% are single-use products.
The conclusion is clear: the plastic waste crisis will get much worse before we see an absolute year-on-year decline in the consumption of single-use virgin plastic.
Yet, these single-use plastics are now recognized as one of the world’s most pressing environmental threats. Large quantities of waste are buried in landfills or incinerated. Almost a third (32%) is dumped untreated into nature, rivers and oceans. The impacts on biodiversity, health, economy and global warming are dramatic.
A few weeks ago, the carcass of a large sperm whale washed up on a beach in Hawaii. The animal was 17 meters long and weighed 54 tons. Cause of death: its stomach was filled with plastic waste. The foreign objects obstructed its digestive system, the animal could not feed itself. It died of starvation.
In December, millions of plastic pellets called “mermaid tears” came to stain the coasts of the Vendée, Loire-Atlantique and Finistère. 230,000 tons of these granules end up in the sea every year because of lost containers.
In January, Brazil sank the former aircraft carrier Le Foch, a toxic package of 30,000 tons filled with heavy metals, asbestos, PCBs, mercury and substances highly toxic to marine life. A real environmental crime…
So what, we just give up? We tell ourselves that there is no point in fighting?
Of course not. In reality, the fight has only just begun and it is now that we must, more than ever, be inventive and on the front line.
Faced with the extent of the phenomenon of plastic pollution which, far from weakening, is only intensifying, we refuse to give up and resign ourselves. To give in to immobility, to affirm that all that we can try to stem this uninterrupted flow of waste is derisory, is to make the bed of eco-anxiety. We refuse to give in to fatalism.
Do we really have a choice at all?
What will we tell our children when the last kilometer of beach free of any garbage will exist only in postcards? When the last turtle will die choked by plastic? When we will see more floating waste than fish while swimming? When we will be disgusted at the very idea of swallowing sea products, of swimming in them, of sailing in them? When we have deregulated the ecosystem services of the ocean, its ability to absorb carbon, regulate the climate, provide oxygen?
Will we tell them that we lacked the leverage, the ideas, or the will to lead the fight to preserve the oceans? That the task seemed futile? That there was doubt about the importance of individual and civil society efforts to address the threat? That we were not sure that we could save the seas with “small” gestures? That we thought that it was above all up to the States and big companies to make efforts? Worse, that we conveniently thought that it was only the big state or transnational measures on the horizon of 2040 or 2050 that mattered?
There are no small gestures when there are thousands, millions of people doing them! There are no useless actions.
Let there be no mistake: the mobilization of public authorities, political and economic decision-makers is essential and must be rapidly translated into decisions and actions in the short term. But it is our collective responsibility to accompany and amplify the initiatives of civil society, without waiting. When citizens and NGOs initiate things, when the results are there, we must all move to scale them up.
Let’s stop opposing the curative and the preventive, concrete action and behavioral changes. They are complementary and feed each other: thanks to collection operations, at sea or on land, we also feed mobilization and awareness. We need step-by-step victories in the long-term battle against plastic pollution.
Since 2016, our team at THE SEACLEANERS has been fighting on all fronts, without hesitation, without resignation. Our watchwords have not changed: take action, find solutions, refuse to give up. We are simply acting in resistance.
We have chosen to take concrete and immediate action, again and again, by taking advantage of all the methods available. These are all open fronts in the battle against ocean plastic pollution: the development of MANTA, the deployment of MOBULAs, the collection activities and events of our volunteers, the commitment of our sponsors, awareness-raising operations, scientific popularization, a visible presence at major international events, citizen mobilization via social networks…
The SeaCleaners‘ teams work tirelessly to make the association a complete and versatile player in ocean cleanup. The path we have taken in the last 6 years is impressive. The one to come is even more impressive!