Marine life hanging by a thread due to plastic waste

The excessive consumption of PET products and plastic waste production are hurting Mexico's oceans
Marine life hanging by a thread due to plastic waste
In Mexico, there isn’t a single law or extended responsibility act to make companies recover the polluting material that they generate to commercialize their products - Photo: Punit Paranjpe/AFP
07/07/2018
18:37
Berenice González Durand
Mexico City
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Mexico is the number-one consumer of bottled drinking water in the world, and the second largest soda consumer. Around 90 million soda and water bottles made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are thrown away and end up on roads, highways, forests, beaches, rivers, and oceans. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace have insisted that there’s a lack of corporate responsibility among Mexican companies in terms of waste disposal.

The organization has stated that environmental responsibility should not be limited to recycling, but also reducing the amount of PET bottles used in their products. A commitment from soda and water companies using PET bottles is required in order to find new and more efficient ways to commercialize their products so that waste generation doesn’t jump out of control.
 

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Miguel Rivas, a member of Greenpeace in Mexico, explained that a global campaign was launched last year to reduce the use of plastic and that Mexico is one of the leading parties of the project, which begun with beach clean-up activities in the Philippines, where a giant whale was created out of plastic waste in order to raise awareness on the impact of PET products on the environment.

“Last year, the campaign was focused on the Coca-Cola company, requesting that they elaborate 100% of their bottles with recycled material. However, this is only one of many companies that still generate plastic bottles and containers all over the world,” Greenpeace commented, mentioning seven market giants: Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Unilever, Nestlé, and Procter & Gamble. The environmental organization chose them because most of the world’s plastic waste comes from their products, but also “because these companies are leading the market, and thus have the power to finance the necessary changes in order to make a difference and serve as pioneers in the fight against toxic plastic containers.”
 

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Monterrey sells avocado seed straws

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In 1950, with a population of 2.5 billion people, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. Today, with a population of over 7 billion people, more than 311 million tons of plastic are produced. It is estimated that humanity has produced more plastic in the last 10 years than in all of the 20th century, though 50% of it is disposed of. Rivas argues that consumers are being left with the full responsibility of disposing of a product that they didn’t really ask for, since what consumers really want is the product inside the PET bottles and containers.

In Mexico, there isn’t a single law or extended responsibility act to make companies recover the polluting material that they generate to commercialize their products. On the other hand, Rivas has stressed that there are no specific studies which focus on polluted beaches and therefore, there is no way to assess the exact amount of PET waste that ends up in the ocean. Nevertheless, there are places where very large quantities of this kind of waste is detected. Such is the case of Malarrimo, in Baja California Sur, which is alarming, since this ocean area is of extreme importance for biodiversity. Every year, western gray whales travel from the seas of Bering, Alaska, to the mild waters of the Baja California peninsula.

China used to recycle nearly 50% of the overall plastic waste in the planet, but imports of 24 kinds of solid waste were prohibited in the country last year, including the low-quality polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that is used in the production of plastic bottles. This has made it even harder for western countries to handle the waste disposal issue. It is estimated that only 9% of all plastic material produced since its invention seven decades ago has been recycled. At the World Ocean Summit last month, it was said that marine ecosystems were in imminent danger, and that the problem was too pressing for long-term solutions.

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