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April 5, 2024

Celebrating Earth Month by Turning the Plastic Tide Circular

TOPICS: Belize, Plastics


The “plastic problem” is far more: plastic pollution is now inherently a global crisis, affecting public and ecological health along the way—seeping into every aspect of our existence. In fact, plastic waste is now so widespread that researchers have suggested it could be used as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene. Public awareness’ tipping point can likely be earmarked by a personal experience of gobsmacking, heartbreaking imagery. Perhaps it’s picturing a pristine beach sullied by shards of plastic or a cry for help from a marine animal, like the viral poster child for today’s marine trash crisis: a tiny seahorse latching onto a cotton swab by nature photographer Justin Hofman taken off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumbawa in 2017. Can you imagine snorkeling the Belize Barrier Reef and seeing a similar scene? Nondiscriminatory, science tells us that the majority of plastic waste ending up in oceans is coming from land—regardless if the waste originated thousands of miles away. 

With Earth Day fast approaching on April 22, here’s some fast facts on the global plastic crisis and more importantly, goals to focus on as we work to overturn the plastic tidal wave into a circular one! 

How plastic threathens marine wildlife, habitat, and human health.

In 2016, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation published a report which showed that most plastic packaging is used only once, and only 14% is collected for recycling. 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth USD 80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy.  Best-case scenario: Whatever plastic isn’t recycled goes to a landfill. Worst case: It gets dumped into nature. But with 8 million metric tons dumped in the ocean every year, the ocean can’t wait for long term solutions, and we need to act now. 

Energized, you may have high expectations to be plastic-free or zero waste. That’s great, though staying sustainable is supreme! First things first, finish any single-use plastic items already in your posession before buying more. Secondly, and likely most importantly, commit to make the switch: whether recyclable, compostable, or reusable. This tiny but mighty shift is the first step towards cultivating a circular economy for plastic, where we circulate any plastic items to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.  

Not to mention, every effort helps in keeping our communities clean—thanks to our local volunteer Wavemakers and partner work with community leaders—where beach and marine cleanups have become critical to public health and the integrity of their ecosystems. Although, if the sink is flooding, you won’t start with the mop: you start by turning off the tap. Each consumer has the power to tell companies and producers what they want to see more (or less) of, with every dollar spent. 

the plastic tide can turn, from home, and into a circular economy.

In daily life, aim to avoid the big four: grocery bags, plastic straws, to-go coffee cups, and plastic water bottles. Going reusable is not only healthier, sans harmful chemicals that have the potential to leech from plastics, but cheaper in the long run. And don’t stop there: ask yourself where else can you use a greener alternative to an everyday item? Like say, a handmade bar of soap in compostable packaging instead of an internationally-shipped body wash packaged in a plastic container. Bonus points: you’re also supporting a Belizean artisan and the local economy! 

Although Belize’s single-use plastic ban reaching final roll-out on March 31st, 2022, with possession of prohibited items becoming illegal, was a huge victory for our oceans, you can go beyond what’s legally required! Start at home, and adapt it to your lifestyle with a registered ‘Green Vendor’ that actively promote customer incentives for reusable or renewable offerings for a 100% eco-friendly option. 

No longer can we afford a linear ‘take-make-waste’ framework—one that’s so heavily reliant on the exploitation of raw materials into cheap, short-use products whose consequences are far from short-lived. This Earth Month, you can join Oceana by taking meaningful action to protect our oceans, wildlife, and communities from the perils of plastic pollution! Together, we can turn the tide on plastic pollution and pave the path for a healthier, more sustainable future for our oceans. A compostable bamboo toothbrush instead of a single-use plastic one; loose leaf tea instead of pre-packaged individual teabags wrapped in plastic; or silicone storage bags for your sandwich, instead of a single-use plastic baggy. How will you go plastic-free this April for Earth Month?