It’s easy to throw up our hands in the face of plastic-filled gyres and contaminated fish, but we’re not the types to be intimidated. Our current plastics situation is in many ways the by-product of “convenience” products that have only been in our lives for a generation.
The Cult of Disposable Plastics
Single-use, disposable plastics are a major part of the plastic pollution equation. A full 50% of all plastics produced are designed for single-use. And the rate of use is cranking: 60,000 plastic bags are consumed every second worldwide. Americans consume nearly a pound of plastic every day (in 2010, each person in the U.S. consumed an annual average of 326 pounds of plastic directly and indirectly). Things like plastic water bottles only became common in the world marketplace a few decades ago, but in that short time they have become a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives (to the tune of 500 bottles for every U.S. citizen per year).
Not so long ago, the world changed dramatically to make disposable plastics the new normal. We can change again.
Mission: Plastic Pollution Solutions
Let’s take diapers as an example. The first disposable diapers entered the marketplace in the 1950’s and 60’s, and their popularity skyrocketed over the next few decades. Today, it is estimated that 95.6% of parents in the United States use disposable single-use diapers, and rates of conventional disposable diaper use are rapidly increasing worldwide. Conventional disposable diapers are among the single-use plastics making their way into our waters. “We’ve traveled the world studying plastic pollution and have seen disposable diapers littering some of the most remote landscapes,” says 5 Gyres founder and executive director Anna Cummins. Even “eco” disposable diapers contain sheets of polyethylene or polypropylene, the two most common plastics found by researchers at sea. The research doesn’t lie; when we consume single-use plastic products, a percentage of them end up in our oceans.
The gDiapers community knows that we can redefine disposable. Rather than moving backwards to a world where we are tied to poorly functioning products, or where we need to find time and resources to incessantly clean and reuse, you’ve joined us in creating a solution: a diaper insert with a Cradle to Cradle certification, a disposable product that can be returned to the earth in a beneficial way as compost (wet ones only) or flushed and treated in hygienic processes.
To attain a future free of plastic pollution, we support 5 Gyres’ research, education, clean-up and legislative work. As for us, we are working with our customers every day on advocacy and innovation. Our customers are seekers on the leading edge of a new way to use products. We want to know what else you see in the world that inspires you. What’s the next innovation a company (maybe even our company!) needs to create? What’s one way you’re taking plastics out of the equation today?