“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
John also writes thriller novels!