Plastic Horrastic

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Marine litter. Plastic bottles on a beach in Northern Norway. Photo: Bo Eide/flickr.

Marine littering has become a huge problem. 88 percent of the sea surface is polluted by plastic and within 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Blogger and PhD student Isabel G. M. Richter is researching consumer behaviour with a focus on marine resources. Together with a group of master students from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), she has come up with five ways to limit our plastic consumption.

The ocean is filled with plastic. In many areas there are already more plastic than plankton and millions of animals die every year as a result of plastic waste. Plastic has a decomposition period of several thousand years, and it is therefore worrying that we use this material so much and so easily. Most of all plastic products are used for less than an hour before thrown away: packaging for food and drink, plastic bags, straws and plates.

Besides the aesthetic aspect of beaches covered in plastic and animals dying because they eat our trash, plastic is dangerous for human’s health as well. Small bits of microplastic act as magnets for other harmful substances. The particles cluster together into small bubbles of poison, which is consumed by plants and animals and accumulated in the food chain. The higher up in the food chain you are, the more poison you accumulate.

In order to address this use, Richter sat down with a group of master students from NTNU for three weeks. These are their suggestions:

1. Cut out plastic bags in the stores. Instead, the shop should let the customers borrow reusable shopping bags made out of more durable material. The advantage for the shops is that they get a sustainable image, loyalty from the customers and the possibility of have their logo on the shopping bags.

2. They calculated that the average amount of tampons and sanitary pads use by women is almost 100kg. It makes up for a big part of marine garbage, and it is blocking the machines in water treatment plants and causing huge costs. They believe the solution is the menstrual cup that consist of silicon and lasts for approximately 10 years. The cups are healthy, hygienic, economic and environmental friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary pads.

3. One of the biggest challenges related to plastic waste is how to remove microplastic from the wastewater. Suggestions consisted of everything from the insertion of extra algae in the water treatment plants, to magnetic walls in the drain pipes that would attract plastic particles due to their magnetic feature.

4. They came up with an aluminium cup to replace the plastic version that is used, for example during music festivals. The cup should be able to attach to the belt so that your hands are free to dance.

5. The fifth solution was to reduce the waste of disposable plastic on university campus by introducing reusable lunch boxes for the students.

The project lasted for three weeks, which is not enough time to change the entire system and free Norway and the world from plastic. Many institutions must be willing to change and invest time and money in the starting process, but in the long run, it will be a profitable investment that offers better conditions for all of us.

The Norwegian government is stepping up its efforts to promote Norway's ocean interests. They intend to make sustainable use of the oceans a global priority. In March 2017, they released the first ever white paper on the place of the oceans in Norwegian foreign and development policy. Among the goals where promoting clean and healthy oceans, sustainable use of marine resources and growth in the blue economy. Combating marine litter and microplastic by reducing waste quantities and improving waste management were also included.

The Embassy’s previous article on White Paper

Story originally sourced from Gemini, for more information go to: https://gemini.no/blogg/plastic-horrastic/