Climate Change first became news to the world almost 30 years ago. But we never did anything to change it. The melting of the ice caps didn’t throw us off, we just said: “This is just another part of the Earth’s cycle”. Nor did the coral reefs, warming oceans, global temperature rise or sea-level rise. And now the bushfires that have ravaged millions of acres of land swallowing thousands of homes of both people and animals across Australia and left us with a summer of drastic temperature changes still have left some saying “This is just another scorching Aussie summer”.
But there are hundreds of people across the world who have stood up and spoken out about the crisis that is dawning upon us. Countries have altered their policies and people have changed their lifestyle to reduce their carbon footprint. However, this still isn’t good enough. Every day people in Australia, Europe and North America whilst separating their household plastic wastes to be recycled and reused, don’t realise that their plastic waste is not really being recycled. Instead, it is being exported and dumped in countries such as Indonesia.
Indonesia has become a dumping ground for vast quantities of the world’s unwanted plastic since China banned imports of foreign plastic waste. The waste is burned by local communities, contaminating and polluting their atmosphere, leaving many with long-term respiratory conditions. The waste arrives by container which is sometimes concealed within other shipments. This compounding domestic plastic pollution problem has left communities to burn the plastics on a large scale. To some in the communities, this supplies them with an outlet to earn money by picking out the best bits to sell to local plastic factories and using the leftovers as a cheap, alternative fuel source for their communities. But this burning of plastic causes respiratory problems for people who inhale the toxic smoke. Southeast Asia’s pollution doubled from 2017 to 2018 with 320,000 tonnes being imported. Indonesia is barely able to survive with the overload of plastic clogging their rivers and spreading to its coastal waters and eventually the ocean.
In retaliation to these actions, the Indonesian government has sent many of their waste shipments back, but often enough they are redirected elsewhere. For example, Reuters reports that environmental groups Nexus3 and BAN found that just 12 of 58 containers returned to the United States. Instead, 38 arrived in India and the remaining containers were tracked to South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, the Netherlands and Canada.
So, the cycle continues.
Now you might be thinking, what could you possibly do to help the environment. Well, there are still many ways to help out the environment. If any of you have seen the ABC TV series War on Waste, you might recall the episode where presenter Craig Reucassel visited a local community and provided them with the challenge to cut down on how much end up in their bins. One family was able to get down to just a couple of banana peels! This might seem impossible but in all honesty, 90% of our waste is stuff we use once and chuck; grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, etc. Try and think about how much you really rely on all these items and see if taking your own silverware when going to work turns out to be really easy. Soon it’ll be a habit! If this seems too hard because using these single-use items has become a force of habit, join us at Seas of Change and challenge yourself this July with Plastic Free July, a global movement inspiring people to make small changes in their lives to make a big difference on the environment. Another pesky item that has gone undetected by many is the effect of microbeads on the environment. These microbeads are often found in beauty products: face scrubs, toothpaste, body wash, exfoliants etc. These tiny beads might seem harmless but their size is what allows them to slip through water-treatment plants and unfortunately also appeals to many marine animals as a midday snack. Opting for products with natural exfoliants, such as oatmeal or salt, can make such a difference. There are so many other ways to make a change in your lifestyle and protect the oceans and their inhabitants.
Making these changes might seem like a drop in a vast ocean, but it can ripple and create a tidal wave across the world, getting people to work together to solve this horrendous issue!
War on Waste- https://www.abc.net.au/ourfocus/waronwaste/
Plastic Free July - https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/