We’re all very familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint, but have you ever thought about your plastic footprint? Well, the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) wants us to start. And considering the detrimental effects that plastic has on the environment, it’s high time we took our plastic consumption more seriously. The PDP estimates that a whopping 90 percent of all plastic is not recycled, and 7 million tons of that winds up in our oceans every single year. When plastic reaches the ocean, it does not biodegrade or breakdown, but instead forms giant floating masses of garbage, with the largest one currently twice the size of Texas. The PDP wants to curb this problem by working with companies and corporations to asses their plastic footprints by examining how much they and their suppliers use, reduce, and recycle.
The PDP began last fall at the Clinton Global Initiative, but it’s taken a year for the initiative to really gain traction. In less than two months, Doug Woodring, a leader of the PDP, will send out a plastic footprint survey to companies and corporations. (You can sign up here to have your company receive a questionnaire). Woodring, who helped set up the Hong Kong-based Ocean Recovery Alliance (the sponsor of PDP), says that not even the average person, let alone a big corporation, knows how much plastic they throw away. He hopes that the survey will help put plastic on our radar of environmental issues we need to be seriously concerned about.
“If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” he told the New York Times. “Once you have a clear idea of how much — and in what way — you and your suppliers use plastic, you can make improvements.”
The project’s website sums up its goals nicely:
The PDP does not mean to point fingers at users of the material, nor to segregate specific materials, but to create baseline metrics, with transparent reporting of material use, so that companies can reduce wastage, improve design, change materials, and improve on recycling or remediation. Smarter re-use of materials, with higher recycled content, is also encouraged via the PDP, hopefully spurring increased opportunities for the recycling industry. The overall goal is a global, improved, prevention mechanism that will reduce the amount of plastic waste that is created, and therefore, reduce the amount which is allowed to enter our ocean and ecosystem.
The PDP estimates that about 300 million tons of new plastic are produced every single year. If that number was lowered just one percent by recycling, better design, or more efficient use, we could save 3 million tons — the same amount of plastic that’s currently floating in the Pacific Ocean.
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