Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days throughout the year. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of World Recycling Day, I introduce our sixth blog in this marine series:
Recycling. Much needed to save our plastic planet.
On March 18 2018 we celebrate the first World Recycling Day, a day to raise awareness on the worldwide urge to recycle our trash and reduce our waste production overall. The idea for a World Recycling Day came from Ranjit S. Baxi, the current president of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR). March 18 2018 was of course not randomly chosen, as it is the 70th anniversary of BIR. So today, our Love The Oceans blog addresses the global trash problem and the urge for improved recycling.
Every year, the world’s population dumps about 2.12 billion tons of waste, a number that is on track to triple by 2100 according to World Bank estimates. To give you an idea how much trash that is, if we’d put all that trash in trucks with a capacity of 40 tons, the line of trucks would stretch over a distance of 960,000 kilometers or 2.5 times the distance between the earth and the moon. Seems like a ridiculous amount? That’s because people in developed countries are not confronted daily with the world’s mounting trash problem and it’s consequences. But in Africa, and in Mozambique in particular, improper garbage disposal leads to trash accumulating in the streets and in giant landfills, posing direct and indirect threats to the survival of the population. Less than a month ago, 17 people were killed in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, when a large trash mound partially collapsed due to heavy rainfall. Landfills also contribute to outbreaks of mosquito-borne malaria other diseases all over Africa.
The lack of proper recycling is a global problem resulting in massive landfills, trash mounds, huge ocean garbage patches and polluted beaches that pose a serious threat to humans, as well as marine and terrestrial wildlife. Recycling seems to be a luxury – an issue that only well developed countries can deal with, and more than half the world’s population does not have access to regular trash collection. Even the four best recycling nations in the world still only manage to recycle more than 50% of their waste, meaning that virtually every country in the world dumps more than half their yearly produced trash in landfills or incinerates it.
Recycling is not just a concept, it’s a way of life and an absolute necessity. Every individual person, every nation as well as our planet as a whole benefits from it. According to BIR, 1.6 million people worldwide are employed in processing recyclabes and every year $20 million is invested by the industry for job creation, improving recycling efficiency and environmental impact. But how does recycling help the environment? Basically, reusing materials or products means using less energy to create a new product, which is of course better than burning old products and making new ones from scratch. Recycling saves over 700 million tons in CO2 emissions every year, enough to offset all the emissions by the aviation industry, which helps reduce the negative effects of this greenhouse gas on climate change, global warming and ocean acidification.
One of the biggest global trash issues is the amount of plastic produced and how smaller proportion is recycled. Mass production of plastic began six decades ago and resulted in billions of tons of plastic trash. Plastics are versatile, lightweight, durable and can meet nearly any requirement for designers and customers, making them a preferred and widely used material. But as we all know, plastics have a downside. Plastics break down very slowly and only 9% of plastic trash is recycled globally. This leads to plastic accumulating in landfills or, even worse, in the natural environment. The latter is something Love The Oceans’ staff and volunteers are confronted with on a daily basis.
According to AMOR, the Mozambican Association for Recycling, only around 1% of Mozambique’s trash is recycled, and the lack of waste management is visible all around the country and in the ocean. Love The Oceans fights this plastic problem in Guinjata Bay by conducting regular beach cleans. We’ve collected hundreds of kilograms of trash over the past 4 years. Furthermore, in 2018, we’re planning on running some trials testing the feasibility of plastic bottle building. Using plastic bottles filled with sand as bricks has already proven to be a very useful form of recycling and bottle bricks have some interesting benefits over normal bricks. They are not brittle which means they better at absorbing shock and the re-use of plastic bottles is far more energy-efficient too since you don’t need to bake new bricks.
Help Love The Oceans celebrate World Recycling Day and raise awareness for the huge trash problem and motivate everyone to reduce trash & plastic production and recycle as much as possible! Our future world and its population thanks you.