Plastic pollution is an environmental and social justice issue.
Fenceline communities are most adversely affected by plastic pollution at every stage of its lifecycle; and yet, rich countries such as Switzerland are not escaping this emergency.
Lately, I have been involved in many actives, neglecting my writing which I enjoy so much: visit local schools, businesses and communities talking about the waste challenge as well as lobbying locally in Geneva to curb consumption of single-use plastics; attend UN Forums and lectures focusing on SDGs, festivals on climate changes (Alternatiba); take part in Hackaton and Climathon events and organise clean-up campaigns and scientific awareness through my instagram.
I would like to take you along with me in one of the above “trip”: a clean up weekend of Lake Leman to show the extent of this problem, reaching every corner of the globe, even the apparently richer, more civilised, and developed ones.
The plastic pollution crisis not only overwhelms our oceans, it is also a significant and growing threat to the Earth’s climate. At current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.
Nearly every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each of each stage of the plastic lifecycle: 1) fossil fuel extraction and transport, 2) plastic refining and manufacture, 3) managing plastic waste, and 4) plastic’s ongoing impact once it reaches our oceans, waterways, and landscape.
During the many clean ups done, I realised that there is an enormous difference between listening to some scary numbers and news and actually seeing those numbers translated in front of your eyes! Do join any of those clean ups, and not because this is the solution to the problem rather to grow your awareness on the problem.
You may think that there could not be so much to clean in a country like Switzerland, and yet you may be surprised….nobody is safe!
Every year around 50 tonnes of plastic end up in Lake Geneva, located between Switzerland and France.
The study, commissioned by the Association for the Safeguard of Lake Geneva (ASL) estimates that half of all the plastic waste found in the lake each year (30 tonnes) comes from car and lorry tires. The dust and tiny particles from tires are washed from the roads and end up in the lake.
Rubbish and packaging thrown away (10 tonnes) is the second main source of plastic trash in the lake – around 10 tonnes a year – followed by plastics used in construction work (3.3 tonnes), and particles from textiles (2.2 tonnes), paint (0.9 tonnes) and cosmetics (0.7 tonnes).
Switzerland is at the forefront of plastic consumption ahead of EU. We use 3 times more plastic than the European average per person. More money equals a more sever “THROWAWAY CULTURE”.
A study, led by Julien Boucher in 2018, together with the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), estimates that 99% of the plastic that ends up in the lake are dropped as litter and particles washed away via gutters, ditches and drains. Only one tenth of the plastic that is thrown or flushed into the lake is evacuated via the Rhône River, near Geneva.
Most of the plastic waste appears to accumulate in sediment at the bottom of the lake and very little is broken down even on the surface. Sizeable amounts of plastic waste are absorbed by fauna, especially birds and fish.
Plastic waste washed up from Lake Geneva has hazardous levels of bromine and cadmium that are a clear threat to wildlife. Researchers also detected high concentrations of mercury and lead among the litter.
Aqua-Diving Club has been organising a clean up of the lake in September for 27 years. Not less than 1000 kilos of rubbish on average are picked up each year in one day and unfortunately sometimes much more! Statistically in 25 years during this annual cleaning, far too much waste is collected: 17’500 kg of waste of all kinds, 8’125 aluminum cans, 7’700 glass bottles, 5’325 pet-plastic bottles, 24 bicycles , 86 tires, 34 carts, purses, weapons, etc!
Here’s what’s at stake if we don’t limit warming:
WE ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION: DEPLASTIFY YOUR LIFE
Call Me Naive — But I’m Holding on and believe to fairytale ending.
I may not make sense to the rest of the world and bystanders may shake their heads at my naivety, but my faith remains as steady as the ocean tide, just waiting to get crashed into.
I’m the type of girl who’s always been a dreamer.
I am the type of girl who thinks of life in a thousand different shades of the brightest colors, while the majority of the world sees black and white.
I exist in the center of flowers, on the very edge of vulnerability. So I continue to pick petals towards destiny until this field of flowers is empty, and even then I’ll wait for the rain so they can grow again.
Only this way I have learned the greatest lesson: it is possible to wring magic from the ordinary.