Great! The EU ban on single-use plastics in nearly through – with an anticipated starting date in 2021. That means the petrochemical has another 2-3 years to maximise its profits through increased plastic production until it’s all supposedly coming to an abrupt stand-still…. or so it’s sold to the public. Please see my earlier article here.

Applying a band-aid in the EU to a bullet wound in Asia

Let’s just assume for a minute that we can look at Mother Earth like we look at our human body. It would seem rather irrational to celebrate the medical achievement of sticking a band-aid, let’s say onto your ellbow, if you shot yourself into the foot (pun intended). 

Let’s just look at the real polluters and contributers to our plastic pollution problem:

Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea,” by Christian Schmidt et al., in Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 51, No. 21; November 7, 2017

The majority of the world’s ocean plastic comes from 10 rivers, of which 8 are in Asia. Amongst them, the Yangtze is the largest polluter, transporting an estimated 1.5 million metric tons into the Yellow Sea each year.
So whether or not we will ban single-use plastics in the EU or not, we’re not addressing the real source of pollution, which lies in Asia and in Africa. 

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a cynic – I just believe that this week’s vote by the European Parliament is distracting the public, despite it not being all smoke and mirrors.

False sense of security

Many times people start to relax their efforts as soon as they hear about a potential solution, specially if they’re from respectable governmental entities. Individuals seem to overestimate what the government(s) can do, and tend to underestimate what the sum of contributions of each individual on this planet actually can achieve.
We must not forget that it’s quite a steep path ahead still until we’re anywhere close to successfully mitigating the planet’s plastic problem. 

Why I remain optimistic 

It wouldn’t be the frist time that Europe leads the way with tighter regulations, technological advances, sustainable solutions, etc. 
Working for many years on Climate Change mitigation projects with the United Nations, which all included technology transfer from the developed nations to emerging nations, I’ve seen the benefits of someone leading the way. 
Of course the policies, governing structures and systems were not perfect, and errors were committed along the way. But what is most important is, that lessons were learnt, policies and systems were modified and updated, and we all kept going; united by one goal: to mitigate climate change and improve environmental performance globally.

I wish for that this parliamentary decision will be successful, so Asia and Africa can learn from us. Consequently, they can incorporate our learnings into their future growth. I don’t believe that we only can learn a lesson by committing the error ourselves. There are lessons that we can learn by seeing others committing them, if we’re brave enough to share them openly and constructively.

The EU has been brave enough to step up to this task – let’s support them!
Start phasing out single-use plastics in your own life – today


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