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Plastics

China Wants To Ban All Single-Use Plastic By 2025

China has announced their plan to help combat the damaging effects of climate change by reducing their plastic waste as a country. One of the most harmful man-made products that’s currently killing our planet is single-use plastic. These products not only are impossible to decompose, but are the most wasteful in terms of use. Things such as the Great Pacific garbage patch and the microplastic epidemic currently taking over could’ve all been avoided had policies such as the one China is about to implement been around. 

By 2025, China is planning on reducing their single-use plastic product distribution and use greatly, starting with a ban on single-use plastic straws and bags throughout the country. Obviously, this is a major shift for such a large country, hence why the government is giving itself a 2025 goal. China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) made a statement this past Sunday (1/19) in which they claimed that certain plastics will be banned in different territories at specific times throughout the next five years to gradually phase out all single-use plastic. 

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It’s expected that the government will start with larger metropolitan areas first and then move to banning plastics in more suburban/rural areas as time progresses. It’s much easier to regulate plastic product distribution in larger cities, as most receive their shipments of single-use plastic products from the same companies, so they can collectively switch to more sustainable options. Rural areas are given more time so residential businesses can transition at their own pace. 

For example, “thin, single-use plastic bags will be banned in most stores in large cities by the end of 2020, but smaller cities and villages have until 2022 or even 2025 to begin phasing them out. By the end of 2025, hotels will no longer be allowed to provide single-use plastic items and no postal service nationwide will be allowed to use any plastic packaging,” according to the NDRC.

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China has mapped out other plastic ban specifics in their official new policy for the next five years, including a ban on all single-use plastic cutlery within China’s catering industry by the end of 2020. The plan is to have all plastic tableware phased out of China’s restaurants by 2025, however, with the takeout industry being as huge as it is, single-use containers will only be partially phased out by the end of the five years. Plastic straws will also be banned entirely throughout the whole country by the end of the year. 

A policy as major as this one happening in a country as impactful as China is extremely important, and will hopefully set a precedent for other major countries. China alone produces up to 30% of the plastic products distributed throughout the world every year, making it the number one plastic manufacturer on the planet.

The significance of that statistic is major, for example, the Yangtze River in China carries more plastic pollution into our oceans than any other water way in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. Plastic levels in our oceans are at an all time high, with an estimated 8 million tons of it being dumped into them every year, a majority of which is coming from China. While it can be argued that the damage has already been done, at least China is leading the way on making major systematic changes to at least try and combat the harmful repercussions of humanity’s actions. 

Along with the new policy, Chinese lawmakers announced that they would be creating a new comprehensive recycling program for the entire country to abide by. This way, it’ll be easier to organize and regulate the recycling process in a country as massive as this one. China is hoping it can return its country’s health to what it once was, and hopes the rest of the world catches up with them soon. Our oceans are hoping for the same.

Beach Clean up

A 25-Year-Old May Have Figured Out How To Clean Up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has grown quite famous in regards to the climate change conversation that the world is constantly taking part in. First discovered 20 years ago, the patch has now grown to be anywhere between the size of Texas to the size of Russia, based on how spread across the Pacific it is on a given day. Regardless, it’s a giant pile of plastic and garbage that has been excreting micro-plastics and pollutants into the ocean for two decades now, with no signs of improvement, until now. 

Boyan Slat is a 25 year old conservationist who 6 years ago, when he was just 19 years old, began developing a device that would clean up the garbage patch plaguing the Pacific once and for all. Slat is in an organization known as The Ocean Cleanup, who’s primary mission is to clean up our planet’s oceans, starting with the garbage patch. 

The U-shaped device looks like a bunch of buoys strung up together from an aerial view, and it’s meant to fold like a giant arm as a means of retaining plastic and moving it. On paper, the device seems simple enough to make and use, however, there’s a reason it took 6 years to fully develop and perfect. Originally the design hit a lot of bumps in the road during its initial testing. The initial reports stated that the system had difficulties retaining the plastic, causing it to leak out into different parts of the ocean. 

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Boyan Slat

Additionally, the flotation devices that formed the bendable “arm” would suffer from some structural failures, causing the “arm” to disconnect from the entire system. These failures all continued to occur throughout the past 6 years, but each time the team from Ocean Cleanup made improvements that slowly but surely made the device completely functional. So much so that earlier this month the group was able to harvest 60 full bags of plastic debris from the patch and return it back to land; at their base in Vancouver. 

 

“We actually have the first plastic back on land. It fills me with a lot of pride and joy. [Even though] It’s absolute garbage, this stuff has been in the ocean likely for decades,” Slat said at a press conference on Thursday. 

The intention is to not only clean up the entire patch, but also recycle the plastic that’s collected. The Ocean Cleanup states as part of their mission that they’d want to turn the plastic into some kind of marketable product so the plastic doesn’t just end up back in the ocean somehow. The team does have an idea in mind as to what this product will be but for now they’re keeping that a secret; what we do know is that they intend to start selling it by September 2020.

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The Ocean Cleanup states that the 60 bags that they collected is just step 1 of the massive project, and they intend on using their device to bring half of the patch back to land to be recycled within the next five years. 

“You might wonder: It’s 20 years ago that this patch was discovered. Why hasn’t anyone cleaned this yet? Well, it turns out that it’s actually pretty difficult. It’s one of the roughest environments on the face of the planet,”  Slat said.

Additionally, the device that they used still needs to be improved upon, along with further funding for the project. If they really want to have a shot at cleaning the ocean of this 20 year old patch of garbage, they need to make sure their device is at its fullest scale and fully operational, which would mean ensuring the device itself can spend long periods of time travelling in the ocean without any wear or tear.

Funding has become a major issue as well, as a majority of the money that was invested into The Ocean Cleanup has been spent throughout the past six years. This is the reason the company plans to make a marketable product out of the plastic, so this way they can further fund this project on its own; hopefully the device will begin to pay for itself with the money raised. For now though, Slat and his team couldn’t be more proud of this monumental step towards a plastic free ocean.