Recently, I became more and more fascinated by what we, as humanity, do to our main source of life. The amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans every day via various routes can not be counted.
Before I go on, I have to confess that I, myself, am not a saint. When I was in high school I wanted to fit in and be cool. So I just threw my candy wrappers on the street. My school was in Amsterdam and there was a regular road sweeper to get rid of all the dirt. So I justified my own actions to myself a bit. No, I really didn’t throw it away in nature. Of course I didn’t realize that the school was near the water and the wind is always blowing in the Netherlands.
How many of these pieces of paper actually have ended up with the waste, I have no idea.
Recently me and a friend to the Omniversum in The Hague. A number of commercials played before the movie Great White Shark started. One advertisement was for plastic soup. And that hit me hard.
It wasn’t all new to me or something, but in one way or another it really woke me up. I hope by writing that I can contribute just a bit more than I already do. Since about a year and a half, I rarely took a plastic bag from a store, ven my vegetables are taken without. Because what do you actually protect the vegetables for when you put them in a plastic bag?
Back in the Netherlands, I notice that a lot of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, especially at shops like the Aldi, is pre-packaged. Sometimes even with a rich selection of different materials. In America you get your drink in a disposable cup in almost every coffee shop. Every hotel that offers breakfast does so entirely in disposable materials. I had breakfast with pain in my heart, where I did my best to use as little as possible.
Of course I can only look at these negative issues, but fortunately I also see very good initiatives. One of these activities even comes from Dutch soil. Boyan Slat did the opposite of what I did at my high school. He invented a method to clean up the oceans. And it was not just an idea. He is now well on his way to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, together with a huge team.
I have been following this project for many years now, sitting in a chair, I have to admit. Although I think I can still compliment myself. In the past year and a half, I have picked up and taken away waste more often than I did in the past 32 years.
A project that I recently came across was also very positive to me. This plan has obviously not yet reached an executive phase, but that such young people come up with this kind of ideas is in itself very positive. This boy, together with a group of fellow students, came up with a way to reuse styrofoam.
I hope that we, adults, will do even better to make our natural environment a bit nicer or at least not make it worse. So that the generations after us can grow up with the biodiversity that we have seen in our lives. And if the above is not enough to scare you, then I can also recommend an exciting book. At the moment I am reading (again) the Dutch translation of Der Schwarm by Frank Schätzing. It’s fiction, and I do not think it’s going to happen. But perhaps it doesn’t hurt to be a little friendlier to our oceans anyway.
We really can not do without all the water that surrounds our planet.
So, what can we do at this time to ensure that no more plastic ends up in the oceans? In the Netherlands, we are well on our way. We no longer have open garbage dumps where all the light, loose plastic can be blown away. But we can of course use less plastic so that there is less need to recycle. Maybe we can address others when we see that they are throwing their garbage on the street.
I recently was on the ferry over the IJ in Amsterdam, and with me there is a whole group of students on the ferry. I see a girl pull a label from a bag and throw it into the water in small pieces. I’m in doubt for minutes if I would talk to her, and how.
In the end I did not have the guts, because what use is it to receive a bitchy remark back?
You would want to penetrate someone, to show the importance. But what would I have done if someone had said something to me all those years back? Probably shrug and especially to my friends pretend that I didn’t care.
In any case, I hope that next time I have the guts, what’s the worst that can happen? In the meantime, I will think about what kind of comment I would want to make. Even if someone will not agree with you because of the group pressure, they might take something with it and think again the next time before they just throw away waste.