As in a chapter of Game of Thrones, this morning Malta has awakened with a dragon in its streets. It could well be the same Drogon if it were not for a detail, this dragon does not spit fire, it spits plastic.
And its handler comes from a dynasty with its own motto “profit comes first”. Under his wings you can see the shields of the “houses”, who are flooding our planet with plastic.
How did he get here and why?
A few weeks ago, Greenpeace as part of the Break Free From Plastic movement, set a goal: to put names and logos to plastic pollution that we see in our seas and along our coasts. It took us two weeks on the beaches of Manila, not only collecting the trash we found, but carefully recording the brands of the ”houses”. Building on the Manila experience, we now started testing this in other countries (Spain, Croatia and the Netherlands).
The names of those brands gradually begin to stand out among the trash: among them Nestle, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo – large corporations that each manage their own branded empire.
But now this corporate dragon has spread its wings in Malta. Politicians, companies and organizations are gathered here today at the International Our Oceans Conference to discuss and make public voluntary commitments that improve the health of the oceans around different priority issues, including marine litter.
The problem is large, growing, and increasingly evident. Sadly, you do not need to make much of an effort to find plastics on almost any coast or at sea, floating or on the bottom, big and small. We have all seen them.
It is a monster of a thousand colors, shapes and sizes that wraps our soda, snacks, yogurts, soaps and shampoos. It is estimated that up to 12 million tons reach the oceans in a year, and it is difficult to hide.
So – while words and commitments are fine – you have to move to action. And for that you need measures that go to the source of the plastic, where it occurs. However, many public and private campaigns focus on the responsibility of the consumer to properly recycle their packaging, but that is not enough by itself. And it’s not fair either.
The policymakers must adopt measures that cut this flow of plastic and limit what companies can put on shelves as well as support alternative systems. Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the companies that are behind the problem to find solutions and alternatives to distribute their products that do not involve disposable plastics in the first place. Disposable is the easy way out for them, but it has a high cost for everyone else.
Only by reducing the amount of plastic that is produced, and investing in alternative ways to make and distribute our stuff, we can really beat this dragon and ensure – in the future – he goes back to being just a fabulous fantasy character.