Hongkongers must speak up against plastic before we are buried in it
| South China Morning Post
| Wendell Chan | Friends of the Earth (HK) Programme Officer
Bowing to pressure from consumers,
businesses in London, such as Budgens supermarket in Belsize Park, are going
plastic-free. Photo: AFP
How much plastic is too much plastic? From the shorelines nearby to the depths of the Mariana Trench, microplastics are now found almost everywhere. We even have reports of colourful plastic particles raining from the skies.
Even the Arctic – once believed to be one of the last few pristine environments – has not escaped the microplastic menace. Scientists have found that a litre of snow in the Arctic could contain as many as 10,000 plastic particles. This plastic is believed to have been blown in by the wind and washed out of the atmosphere by the snow. Similar incidents of atmospheric microplastic have also been found in Dongguan, Tehran, Paris and likely in many other places as well.
What’s more, we now have imitation rocks hiding in plain sight. Called pyroplastics, these are marine plastics formed from the melting or burning of plastic waste. After subsequent weathering in the seas, they are indistinguishable from natural stones and pebbles to the naked eye. The only way to tell is by their weight, as they are light enough to float in water.
Plastics have not just infiltrated the environment but almost all aspects of our lives. Consuming plastics is no longer a fear but a reality. Microplastics have been found in tap water and even in bottled water. The average person will unintentionally consume around 50,000 plastic particles every year – and over 120,000 if we include inhalation. While the World Health Organisation has said that the effect of microplastics on our health is still unclear, it is clear that we need to re-examine our relationship with plastics.
Citizens have a role to play by signalling that they desire more sustainable alternatives. But more importantly, manufacturers must adopt and provide these sustainable alternatives as the norm.
Instead of waiting for the industry to slowly change their practices, the government needs to facilitate this process through legislation such as producer responsibility schemes to make the transition easier.