As the semester draws to a close, i would like to conclude this blog by returning to my ‘roots’. Today’s post will draw upon a human geography perspective towards plastic pollution.
Today’s post is inspired by McDermott (2016) paper on “Plastic Pollution and the Global Throwaway Culture: Environmental Injustices of Single-use Plastic”. In his paper, McDermott covers several important points that relates to the political economy of plastic pollution.
1. The earth is suffering an injustice from our throwaway culture. The earth, and particularly the ocean has become our dumpster.
- The throwaway culture describes current social and economic structure of society in which unwanted things and people are rejected as waste.
- Since the poorer segments of society often have a closer relationship with the environment, they are more vulnerable to the negative effects of the throwaway culture. The throwaway culture turns earth resources into rubbish, pollutes the environment and threatens the life of the poor.
- Plastics end up in the ocean, is consumed by marine life, and bioaccumulate through the food chain.
- The throwaway culture is a result of a ‘nature-society’ dichotomy that exist within the minds of individual. We throw our plastics in the ocean and erase it away from our realm of thought. Out of sight, Out of mind. Within our minds, the negative effects of plastic pollution exist in the separate realm that would not affect humans.
2. Plastic Pollution is a result of our throwaway culture and waste infrastructure.
- The multitude of plastic pollution is not just attributed to the odd ignorant man directly dropping a plastic cup into the river, but it has everything to do with the overconsumption of throwaway society and ill-designed waste managements system, especially those of developing countries. 55-60% of plastic pollution is sourced from 5 developing countries; China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
3. Prevention rather than cure.
- Clean up cannot be done efficiently enough to combat the rate at which plastic continually enters the ocean.
- All that can be done now is to increase public awareness. Human society has to discover solutions for reduced use and proper disposal of single use plastic. A social change is required in order to discard the ‘throwaway’ mentality.
4. The industries are the biggest aggressor in plastic pollution.
- The industries are the producers.
- They feed the throwaway culture with convenient, long lasting, but cheap containers to their product. When we buy biscuits, our biscuit is placed in a plastic bag, with a plastic wrapped box, with plastic wrapped around the biscuits. Oh yeah, the biscuits also sit on a plastic tray. Similarly, when we pack food at the hawkers, they will include plastic cutlery with no questions ask.
- Even though plastic bottles have been the model of plastic pollution, many members of the public are still unaware of the consequences.
5. Political Economy of Plastic Pollution
- The first group of humans to be affected by plastic pollution would be the poor who are most dependent and connected to the wasteland of throwaway culture. These people reside near/within dumps and polluted coastal communities.
- In Indonesia, fish sold had plastic debris within them. These poor coastal communities often have no other food substitute since fish are the cheapest option. Fish is also their main staple.
6. The ‘Right” to a clean environment. Throwaway culture has destroyed ecosystems robbing impoverished communities of natural resources and of a healthy and safe living environment. Every person has a right to access an environment free of plastic debris and toxins associated with its improper dispoal.
McDermott, Kristin L., “Plastic Pollution and the Global Throwaway Culture: Environmental Injustices of Single-use Plastic” (2016). Environmental Justice. Book 7. http://digitalcommons.salve.edu/env434_justice/7