We Can Beat Plastic Pollution

REES Africa
4 min readJun 5, 2023


Can we beat plastic pollution?

Take a look around you, plastics are omnipresent; they are used in agriculture, textile, electricity, construction, medicine, sports, transportation, packaging, manufacturing and nearly every other sector. Can you imagine a world without plastics? They have made our lives so much easier because they are cheap and durable, preserve food against contaminants, reduce food waste by increasing their shelf life and can be manipulated for diverse uses. Our dependence on plastics makes it quite difficult to get rid of them. The fact is, we need plastics, but without this prevalent plastic pollution.

According to the World Economic Forum, by 2050, plastics in oceans will outweigh the fish. Only about a quarter of the plastic consumed is recycled. The unrecycled majority ends up in dumpsites or landfills constituting a nuisance in the environment with a major effect on marine animals. This marine life sometimes gets trapped by the plastics or they ingest them and face a higher risk of death or the chemicals alter their physiology as time goes on. Plastics degrade very slowly and so have long-term negative effects. The earth is suffering from our excessive consumption and indiscriminate disposal of plastic. Plastic pollution has become an epidemic and our current actions are not sustainable.

The sustainable way to handle plastic requires that we push beyond the usual fragmented, theoretical and unsustainable approaches. It involves a series of interconnected practical steps by the government, individuals, households and industries with International cooperation. The sustainable way to handle plastic is embedded in the simple slogan, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".

Reduce Plastic Production

Many plastic uses can rarely be efficiently substituted but encouraging the use of alternatives would help reduce the dependence on plastics. The substitutes utilized must be biodegradable. We can also reduce plastic use through improvements in the design such as a reduction in the amount of plastics and other raw materials used; making provisions for the reuse and repair and extending the lifespan of our plastics products. Reduced plastic production translates to reduced consumption, indiscriminate use and ultimately, reduced plastic pollution.

Reduce Plastic Consumption

Plastic packaging is one of the largest applications of plastic. As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable Packaging must be prioritized in businesses. If the public demands for plastic-free products rise, businesses would be forced to come up with favourable alternatives. Formal and informal education to create awareness of the effect of excessive and indiscriminate plastic use and disposal is a long-term strategy we must utilize. The internet, free massive open online courses, social media and the likes can be translated to long-term behavioural changes.

Reduce Plastic Waste

So many clean-up activities have been done and more have been proposed but the widespread plastic pollution and the varying sizes of plastics make it almost impossible to completely rid the oceans of plastics. However, cleanups will reduce the pressure of plastics in the ecosystem. More sustainable is the mandatory reduction of the release of plastics in wastewater treatment plants. For individuals and households, sanctions for improper disposal and incentives for correct disposal may help reduce waste. Corporations should be charged recycling fees and the proceeds should be channelled to recycling companies and other environmentally friendly activities.

Recycle Plastics

The fresh production of plastics is said to be cheaper than recycling. Nevertheless, increasing the rate of plastic recycling, improving the quality of recycled materials, and technological advancement could significantly decrease the environmental consequences of plastic pollution. Plastic recycling also comes with additional benefits such as; reduction of landfills, job creation, reduction of imports of expensive resources and economic improvement. Implementation of policies that encourage/mandate the use of recycled plastic would enhance recycling rates and its benefits.

Reuse Plastics

Recycling is the priority of all plastics waste management but not all plastics can be recycled. The use of single-use plastics is highly encouraged despite the inherent limitation. Through improvements in plastic designs, products' lifespan will be enhanced and provisions for repair and reuse will be made. Plastic wastes that cannot be recycled can be reformulated into feedstock and energy (fuel, steam, heat or electrical). Plastic waste to energy reduces the use of fossil fuel, provides energy savings and would enhance the environment if efficiently done. However, air pollution control measures are primary to plastic reformation and conversion processes.

Here's a list of simple things you can do to reduce plastic pollution;

  • Buy in bulk, it reduces the need for plastic packaging
  • Buy second-hand items, it encourages recycling
  • Cook more, it reduces the need for plastic packaging
  • Say no to unnecessary plastic products
  • Avoid single-use plastics such as plastic wrappings, cotton buds, cutlery, straws, cigarettes etc.
  • Buy and reuse reusable shopping bags
  • Ditch single-use plastic water bottles for refillable bottles
  • Never litter, and have an efficient waste disposal system in your home and offices
  • Support cleanups and recycling activities
  • Tell others; put your social media handles to good use!

Can we beat plastic pollution? Eliminating plastic pollution may seem like a long and unachievable process, but we can if we set our hearts and might and other resources to it. Yes we can, Yes, we should beat plastic pollution.

Writer: Christiana Ugbem

Photo: shutter stock.com



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