Cleanup Northcoast © Higgy Photo / Ocean Legacy Foundation
How we combat plastic pollution is epic
Over the last 60 years, the use of plastic has grown exponentially.
Plastic is inexpensive, lightweight, and durable in nature, allowing it to be applied in a broad array of applications, including packaging, automotive, household products, electronics, construction, and marine sectors. However, it is estimated that more than 75 per cent of all plastics that have been produced have become waste, while substantial quantities of plastic accumulate in landfills and natural ecosystems worldwide. Plastic pollution is now found in the deepest depths of the ocean (10,975 metres under) to mountain tops of more than 3,000 metres in altitude and is known to entangle, starve, and suffocate wildlife, as well as introduce invasive species that may affect endangered and sensitive species.
Other major global issues induced by plastic pollution include shipping hazards, dangers to fisheries and other maritime activities as well as economic loss from property damage. Despite the growing global impact of plastic pollution, plastic manufacturing and trade are rapidly growing sectors, now producing more than 450 million metric tonnes of plastic every year.
If significant improvements are not made to plastic management systems worldwide, plastic in aquatic and landfill environments is estimated to increase to 12,000 million metric tonnes by 2050.
There are no proven formulas that provide one solution to ending the plastic pollution crisis.
However, over the better part of a decade, the Ocean Legacy Foundation has been developing a robust program, which fuses the Blue and Circular Economies together for the Pacific Northwest; catalyzing a hub to clean up coastal environments, develop skilled employment, and build critical infrastructure to recirculate precious resources back into the plastic economy.
The program is called EPIC, an acronym that integrates Education, Policy, Infrastructure, and Cleanup as an emergency response program to combat and end plastic pollution. The program identifies, removes, and prevents plastic pollution from occurring or entering aquatic and land-based natural environments. The purpose of EPIC is to create practical solutions that are accessible for communities around the world to restore critical natural habitats for improved human and wildlife health, as well as assess and develop long-term plastic collection, processing infrastructure, stimulate green employment and lend to policies that mitigate plastic pollution sources.
With support from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the BC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, regional districts, non-profits, coastal Indigenous communities and various sponsorships and donations from concerned citizens, Ocean Legacy has now opened the first and only industrially scaled processing facility in North America, focused on 11 different streams of materials collected from ocean, shoreline and marine industrial cleanups, located in the heart of Steveston Harbour, British Columbia.
These operations are dovetailed with a quickly evolving province-wide ocean plastic depot program to divert select plastics such as rope, netting and oyster baskets from landfill and the natural environment. The program focuses on processing high-density polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon, and has diverted more than a million pounds in just under two years of operations. Programs are currently focused in British Columbia with expansions underway in Mexico and Panama and growing interests along the East Coast of Canada.
Please support Ocean Legacy by visiting our website at oceanlegacy.ca to make a donation, join our free e-learning Academy to take action in your community, apply to join our growing cleanup and facility teams or purchase plastic pellets made in-house from materials collected from clean-up.
We are a Canadian based, internationally recognized NON-PROFIT organization that has developed a world leading PLASTIC POLLUTION EMERGENCY RESPONSE™ program called EPIC. This dynamic and INTEGRATIVE approach to ocean plastics recovery and transformation combines 4 main components; EDUCATION, POLICY, INFRASTRUCTURE and CLEANUP.