It was back in December when a fellow blogger, Kavitha at SunshinySA Site,
posted what for me was a sit-up-and-take-notice fact: Coca Cola scores hat trick as world’s worst plastic polluter worldwide. Yes, for the third year in a row, Coca Cola labels were identified on discarded plastic trash more frequently by cleanup volunteers around the world than any other brand. What a frightening unintended consequence of having such popular products.
[Click on any map to zoom in on details.]
This realization reminded me of the horrifying moment a few years ago when I learned that the plastic waste that we have all been conscientiously separating out and putting in recycling bins every other week hasn’t been recycled at all. It’s been being sent to developing countries in Asia for them to recycle – or to put in their landfills instead of ours. Huge percentages of plastic waste from the “wealthy” countries are collected and packed into shipping containers, then shipped from North America and Europe to Asia. The shipping just adds to the pollution problem. Unbelievable.
Most ordinary everyday citizens didn’t know about this at all until finally some of the Asian countries decided they didn’t want to be in the business of handling our trash anymore and sent it back. Why didn’t we know that our plastics weren’t actually being recycled at home at all, they were being shipped overseas? Who would have thought to ask?
Some countries are doing a lot better than Canada with recycling their plastic, that’s for sure, but we all could be doing a lot better. And in this pandemic year, far more single-use nondegradable items have been being used once only, be it plastic, Styrofoam or whatever, and then trashed, so as not to inadvertently spread the virus. How are we managing this for the sake of our struggling planet?
Let’s take a look at the reality of waste generation and management around the world.
These maps paint a pretty sobering picture of just how irresponsible we’ve been about managing our waste, both how much we generate and how we dispose of it. We have lots of work to do.
In exploring narratives and maps that capture these challenges, one fact stood out above all others:
Humans have consumed more resources in the last 50 years than in all of human history.
It’s up to us to step up in being responsible in managing that reality. For our children and for our planet.