So what’s the problem with plastic waste? And what can we do about it?

There’s a lot of plastic waste going around right now. It constitutes about 90 per cent of trash in the ocean with an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. How did we get to this point?
About eight million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans every year. That’s equivalent to one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute of every day.

In Brunei, over 20,000 bags of trash were collected from the Brunei River — most of it comprising plastic bottles and bags — from April to May 2018. On Earth Day this year, student volunteers picked up more than 1.2 tonnes of rubbish from Panaga Beach in just one morning. That’s nearly equivalent to the weight of an average sedan vehicle.

Where is the plastic waste coming from?

Single-use plastics, which are items like straws, takeaway containers and plastic shopping bags, are the biggest culprit in this scenario. We also happen to use a lot of these single-use plastics every day, whether it’s shopping trips to the supermarket, dine-ins at restaurants or takeaway food. Some of these plastics end up in the ocean and accumulate over time to form a massive pile of floating plastic in the ocean, the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The mounting problem of plastic affects every country including Brunei. By 2024, Brunei will generate 4.5 million tonnes of waste with 40,500 tonnes or 20 per cent of it being plastic. In other words, that’s a lot of plastic!

What is being done about all that plastic waste?

Improved waste collection and reduced consumption of plastic have been flagged by the Brunei government as crucial next steps to decrease plastic waste.
By 2019, the government wants to completely phase out the use of plastic bags in major supermarkets, as part of efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Initiatives are also being carried out by non-government organisations to discourage littering and indiscriminate dumping.
Social enterprise, Green Brunei, have been actively running social media campaigns to rally young people to join in the mission for a more sustainable environment.
We can also learn about how plastic waste is dealt with in other countries. In Kenya, plastic trash is collected to make the Flipflopi Dhow, a boat that is entirely made of plastic. Once completed, the plastic sailboat will make a 5,250-kilometre journey in December from the Kenyan town of Lamu to Cape Town in South Africa, to raise awareness about plastic trash.

Credits: Al Jazeera

What can you do to help?

There are many ways you can help reduce plastic and join in the global battle against plastic waste. Here, we’d like to suggest a few things that you could do

  • Leave reusable bags in your car so that you don’t ever have to get a plastic bag when you’re out shopping.
  • Buy a reusable tumbler or bottle that you can refill water. Most workplaces have water dispensers so that employees won’t have to buy bottled water.
  • Avoid using single-use plastic cups and straws if you can. Otherwise, make the plastic goes into the recycle bin. Plastic straws are known to be the worst culprits that pollute marine life.
  • Participate in beach or river cleanups. This activity will help build stronger awareness and connect you with like-minded people and give you more ideas on how to lead more environmentally sustainable lives.