How to prevent plastic waste from polluting the oceans?

© Nets and the plastic gyre

A year after Tara’s expedition in the Mediterranean, the Tara team is pursuing an educational mission: to inform the general public and propose solutions for reducing plastic waste in the sea.

Tara’s Blue Book for the Mediterranean is an excellent way to discover the work accomplished during the expedition. Given the long-lasting accumulation of plastic, we must now take action upstream and prevent waste from reaching the sea. 

Plastic is a material with huge potential. Inexpensive to produce, it has ideal properties: lightweight, strong, durable, flexible or rigid, opaque or transparent, it can be used to manufacture all kinds of products. Since plastics first appeared in the 20th century, their production and consumption has exploded in all sectors – construction, automotive industry, electronics, etc. Today the quantity produced annually is nearly 300 million tons. Conceived to last a long time, most plastics are actually used to make short-term products. Nearly half is destined to become packaging, discarded as soon as a product is purchased. Use of plastics may be short-term, but their presence in the environment is durable. If  discarded plastics are not collected and recycled after use, they systematically end their lives in nature and especially at sea! This sad reality motivates us to turn to technological methods to clean the world’s oceans and seas.

Although cleanup remains essential, it’s not enough to address the consequences of the problem without considering its causes. Today we must act further upstream: only by preventing waste from reaching the sea can we hope to preserve and restore the Mediterranean.

 Reduce, reuse, recycle

Few people are aware of the enormous amount of waste they produce every day. To prevent plastic detritus from reaching the sea, a first solution is to change our behavior: reduce waste, reuse, and recycle. Consumers have a key role to play: choose durable and reusable products instead of disposable ones; favor products with little or no packaging; give a second life to objects; say no to plastic bags. Consumers must take responsibility for sorting and directing used products towards recycling channels whenever they exist. 

Corporate responsibility

The prevention of plastic waste must also come from manufacturers, and distributors. It’s impossible to require the companies producing plastic to stop their activity. But industrial responsibility remains key to slowing the production of waste. Businesses can change the situation by reducing packaging and creating products that are easy to maintain, reparable, durable, and eligible for reuse or recycling.

Prohibition of single-use plastic: for a campaign in the Mediterranean

Plastic bags have been a part of our daily lives for a long time. Research shows their disturbing impact on the marine environment. Given the extent of plastic pollution observed during the Tara Med expedition, and considering the decision of France to ban lightweight plastic bags starting in 2016, Tara is demanding concrete action on the part of the governments of all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. A world-wide ban on single-use plastic – a real scourge for the environment – is necessary to ensure the good health of mankind and the sea.

 

 

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