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In recent years, the plastic straw movement has swept the globe. Encouraging people to ditch plastic straws in exchange for more sustainable options, the trend provided an easy and environmentally friendly change most people could easily incorporate into their lives. Well known companies like Starbucks, Disney, and McDonalds even switched to paper straws, or cut them out completely. While, without a doubt, the movement was a beneficial step towards a more sustainable future, many appear to be unaware of the actual role and impact of this action.
If every plastic straw used ended up in the ocean, they would account for just 0.03% of plastic ocean waste. This extremely low statistic does not detract from the theory behind limiting single use plastic consumption. However, it has the potential to remove the focus from the items and companies that are polluting our oceans and air at a much higher rate.
In 2017, a study from the CDP estimated that just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. This list is notably dominated by fossil fuel companies such as ExxonMobile and Shell. Given that the creation of plastic is intrinsically tied to fossil fuels, the two industries, while often evaluated separately, are contributing significantly to the magnitude of the climate crisis we see today. An estimated 8 billion tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Some of the most common items found are cigarettes, bottles, and bags. On top of that, air pollution was reported to contribute to seven million deaths per year by the United Nations. Their first culprit listed for this pollution? Fossil fuels.
Without a doubt, the plastic straw movement provided a valuable step towards changing consumer behavior towards single use plastics. But, it is essential to realize that the change cannot stop there. In order to drastically alter the rate of waste and recycling produced, the biggest actors must be held accountable. In the aforementioned CDP study, 32% of the companies mentioned were publicly traded. With this in mind, leveraging investments can be a valuable tool to demand change. While often reserved for major investors, through tools like Physis Investment, anyone can play a role in shifting money out of irresponsible companies and into good ones – creating an incentive to change for all companies. On a more individualistic level, decreasing plastic consumption should be a priority for all consumers. However, this must be done simultaneously with work for structural or legislative reform. In 2020 so far there have already been a number of proposed legislative actions, one of which being the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. Signing petitions, lobbying your senators, and advocating for structural change must be an intrinsic aspect of solving the incredible levels of pollution and waste created every year. Join Physis today to make a difference!