Death by Plastic . . .What Happened to My Holiday?

“Think about it. Why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away. What’s up with that?”  ~Jeb Berrier,

After a flyfishing trip to the beautiful Caribbean country of Belize, I wrote a blog about the horrendously negative impact of plastics on the marine environment.

Everywhere I went I saw once pristine beaches pulled high with plastic; bottles, sacs, chips of styrofoam and containers, toothbrushes, bottle caps, toys and a plethora of other broken bits and pieces of plastic.  There were even plastic sacs floating in the water and caught in the aerial roots of mangrove trees.  Everywhere I looked, on every beach, on every small island, even on sandbars barely breaking the ocean surface, plastic litter everywhere.  The flotsam and jetsam of our careless, disposable economy.

And it’s not just unsightly, it is also dangerous for marine life.  As plastics break down into smaller and smaller bits of plastic, they begin to look more and more like food to unsuspecting animals. Food that kills. And now microscopic bits of plastic are showing up in the human food chain. Death by plastic?

It made me both angry and despondent.  Angry at the unknowing disregard we have for our convenient consumption lifestyle. Despondent at not knowing what to do. Not just how to clean up the beaches, but how to stop our society from producing single-consumption plastic items, and then casually discarding them, to wind up thousands of miles from where they were bought and used.

To make me even more angry and despondent I read about the great assemblages of plastic floating out in the Pacific Ocean, called The Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, composed of millions of discarded plastic items.  Some assemblages are twice the size of the state of Texas. And then I saw photos taken by friends of beaches in Hawaii, where I used to live, which were unrecognisable to me because they were buried under plastic washed up onto the shore.

One of the business skills my consulting team has is process mapping. Charting the various steps in the  production of a particular product or service from order to delivery into the hands of the customer.  By looking at this chain of activities it is often easy to find bottlenecks or excess costs.  Streamlining ( leaning ) the process means eliminating the wasteful steps, either excess costs or wasted time.

So where is the critical step in the plastic pollution process that can help stop the growing pollution of our lands and oceans?  You guessed it, at the purchase point in supermarkets and stores. It starts with us as the critical link in the plastic pollution chain.

I came across this TED video not too long ago and I want to share it with you because it not only tells the story of plastic pollution eloquently and visually, it also provides a solution.

The diagnosis and solution are clear, but will we act?

Written and Posted by: John R. Childress

Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid

Twitter @bizjrchildress

Read John’s blog,  Business Books Website

On Amazon: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture

Read  The Economist review of LEVERAGE
Also on Amazon:   FASTBREAK: The CEO’s Guide to Strategy Execution

John also writes thriller novels!


About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in consulting, ecosystems, flyfishing, John's views on the world, save the oceans and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Death by Plastic . . .What Happened to My Holiday?

  1. moorthy says:

    “It made me both angry and despondent. Angry at the unknowing disregard we have for our convenient consumption lifestyle. Despondent at not knowing what to do. Not just how to clean up the beaches, but how to stop our society from producing single-consumption plastic items, and then casually discarding them, to wind up thousands of miles from where they were bought and used.”


  2. Pingback: Behind Paradise . . . let’s do the math | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

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