Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
SPOTLIGHT: We’ll reach 55% of our goal if we take one path, but only 1% if we take another.
BIG PICTURE: Research published in Science in 2015 attempts to identify the source of plastic pollution in the ocean. Twenty countries are listed. The United States appears at the bottom, in spot #20, responsible for one percent (0.9%) of this problem.
It therefore doesn’t matter how many waitresses get thrown in jail in Santa Barbara, California for supplying plastic straws to the customers they’re serving. It doesn’t matter how many convenience stores get fined in San Francisco for the dastardly crime of selling “straws, stirrers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks, or toothpicks made with plastic” to private individuals for use in their own homes. 99% of ocean-bound plastic will continue on its merry way.
So how about another plan? One that actually has a chance of making a difference. How about we focus our attention on the top five countries on that list. China is thought to be responsible for 28% of overall ocean plastic. Indonesia’s share is estimated at 10%. The Philippines and Vietnam are thought to contribute 6% each, and Sri Lanka 5%.
If wealthy charitable foundations helped those five countries upgrade their trash disposal systems, a significant dent might be made in over half (55%) of the plastic currently ending up in the ocean.
The research published in Science is very clear about this. It declares: “Improving waste management infrastructure in developing countries is paramount.”
Allow me to repeat myself: Punitive, draconian laws in North America have no hope of fixing more than 1% of this global problem.
TOP TAKEAWAY: If we want to protect the ocean from plastic, we need to think strategically.
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