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How to Advocate for Zero Waste

“We need zero-waste and end-of-life design for everything we create; a world in which social and environmental justice becomes part of product and systems design. We want a world without waste - because there is no ‘away.’” ~ Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute

I recently re-read Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution. Written by Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, the book details the history of plastics and his trip across the Pacific to highlight the environmental danger of the synthetic material. Eriksen names his raft Junk since it was made of plastic bottles and other discarded trash. The ocean voyage was harrowing at times as Eriksen discusses his personal emotions and experiences about his mission to expose the plastics industry. He goes into detail about the science behind plastics and the health hazards created by the pollution in waterways and on land. He also calls out how the plastics producers spread misinformation in order to preserve their growing profit center for the fossil fuels industry. Plastic production grew from zero in WWII to nearly 40 million tons in 25 years, and production of 1 billion tons of new plastic production is predicted by 2050 through planned obsolescence alone.

What can activists do to stem this tide of plastic pollution? Besides going “big” to campaign against plastic waste, an individual can take the following actions:

  1. Fight corporate influence and demand that plastics producers be held accountable. One can do this by voting with your purchases. Go zero waste. Refuse single-use plastics. Demand for a circular economy from manufacturers.

  2. Write to your leaders for policy change. Often the most effective action is at the local level. “Rachel Carson called on the public to form 'citizen brigades.'” Public health and environmental groups are essential.

  3. Collaborate with like-minded individuals and grassroots organizations with your time and money. Strategic networking will then lead to a larger coalition in this fight for a zero-waste life.

The final observation is that the path for the advocate is a long one. Be ready to engage in long conversations, have patience, and stay steadfast even in the face of adversity.

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