The world turns…and continues to throw away and burn single-use plastics. How do we inspire collective action and unity of purpose?

Bill Nye aligned with Coca-Cola to improve existing recycling rates among Americans. Is it enough to make up for what U.S. companies and foreign governments owe to The People for conducting business where they live and potentially destroying their access to a healthy living environment?

Maybe it’s the slow and steady push of hardworking policymakers and scientists to effect change. “Fuel economy improvements have saved more than two trillion gallons of gasoline since 1975,” according to the NRDC.

There is gold floating near emerald shores and deep blue depths. Medicinal breakthroughs waiting to be capitalized upon, if only the world’s economic engines would WAKE UP…

Or are we just learning how to take a closer look at our own world? A painful awareness thrust upon us by our own curiosity. And the closer we look, the more troubled we become by what we find.

While Earth Day in 1970 sparked a modern revolution in eco-consciousness in America, the seeds of environmental stewardship and harmony exist across cultures. It is fundamentally human to want to restore balance to that which we have upset. It’s equally human to strive toward chaos no matter the outcome.

Thankfully, over the past decade, we have been blessed to witness the birth of an incredible network of organizations committed to inspiring individual action in the fight against plastic pollution. We have cheered alongside friends, family, and internet strangers(💖) as they shared their journey of eco-activism with us.

Here are some of the all-stars we have worked with since our inception:

SHOUT OUT TO ALICIA NOGALES!

Alicia is an individual determined to make a positive impact. She personally has brought Barrel Bag to several groups within her community of Troncones in Mexico. They are fully equipped and mobilized and she isn’t ready to stop the efforts. Keeps buying bags and giving them away. A true warrior! She works with the Manzanillo Bay Hotel and la unión de artesanas de troncones y Saladitaor.

YOU ARE THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

DESIGN CONTEST 🎨

Congratulations to Heidi Peak and all the participants of the Barrel Bag Design Contest! Thank you to everyone who participated, Heidi’s entry was so stunning we were compelled to announce her as the winner immediately!

 

 

 

EARTH DAY HIGHLIGHT

Barrel Bag would not be possible without you, dear reader. Thanks to your grit, perseverance, and curiosity the community has made an incredible impact. Thanks to everyone who participated in a cleanup on #EarthDay.

BAG ACHIEVEMENTS

This Earth Month we practiced self-love, because how can we adopt an abundance mindset if we don’t fill our own cup? Here are some of the incredible achievements of the community over the past four years.

The Only Constant Is Change

We have news, folks.

Our time in the community has been incredible and it will continue to be a privilege and honor to participate, but for the foreseeable future Barrel Bag content operations will be slowing down. What does that mean? Original newsletter and social content will end *until* we can find a stellar eco-warrior committed to carrying on the Barrel Bag legacy.

Don’t stop! Just because our day-to-day posting/monthly bulletin is on hiatus, does not mean you can’t lead cleanups, build your network, and perhaps even achieve greatness.

And stay tuned for potential partnerships! Our bags and the Impact Tracker are still HERE FOR YOU to continue to help make an impact and spread awareness. Anyone can create an ocean of change.

It may feel like this farewell is forever, but Barrel Bag will continue to stick to this collective of beautiful eco-warriors like a barnacle! It takes a network of committed individuals to create the impact you all have made in your communities, and it has been a privilege to be part of this ecosystem and watch it grow.
Keep in touch.

The world turns…and continues to throw away and burn single-use plastics. How do we inspire collective action and unity of purpose?

Since the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the drive to ‘save’ the planet has only grown. We are grateful for the cultural shift in thinking, but now 60 years later, where do we go from here? The path ahead offers two distinct choices. Do we focus on change on a policy or individual level? Perhaps those two paths meet. We think so. We believe in the hard work of organizations like the Surfrider Foundation and politicians like Tom Udall and Alan Lowenthal and their efforts to codify sensible plastic pollution policy. We ALSO believe in the hard work of you, me, and the rest of our community.

That is why this month we are dedicating this bulletin to the Surfrider Foundation and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. If there is ONE click, ONE action you take for the environment ahead of Earth Day, then 📣SUPPORT📣THIS📣BILL📣Like right now before you are finished reading this😎take a minute or two to contact your representative. Shoutout to Beyond Plastics for a great breakdown of the BFFPPA.

“In January 2019, the Surfrider Foundation and University of California Los Angeles Law School Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment presented at two Congressional Briefings on Capitol Hill to discuss plastic pollution solutions. The presentations focused on their joint report on federal actions to address marine plastic pollution and set the stage for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”

As important as it is to make changes at the policy level, we believe power comes from the people. We can all agree that single-use plastics suck. More often than not SUPs like household cleaners, grocery bags, and reusable food storage containers can be easily swapped out with minimal effort. Our community has switched to beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap, reusable pail liners instead of garbage bags, and even ditched pesky detergent pods for the powdered variety.

Huge shout out to Grove Collaborative for bringing some of the best brands out there under one roof. Once again, power in numbers. Demand dictating production. Marketplaces like Grove (we are not affiliated, so this is not a sponsored plug) can hopefully incentivize both the boardroom and courtroom to act with environmental equity in mind.

 

 

 

Let’s keep fighting for a zero-waste future with the power of the people and policy.

 

 

Does the fight against plastic pollution include both collective and individual action? We believe both are critical.

If we all used reusable cups and bottles for anything we drank, from coffee to water to beer, we could change the world! But we don’t. Why? Despite amazing advances in bioplastic technology, there is currently too much demand in our global throw-away culture to fight plastic pollution head-on. Consider the rise in shipping costs if EVERYBODY switched to glass or metal.

“It is not as simple as ‘plastic is bad’ so let’s use something else,” warns Eliot Whittington, policy program director at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership. “It will require a complete change in the way we use product packaging at the moment. Most packaging is now used just once and thrown away. We need to move away from that. It needs some form of leadership from government.”

There are caveats, as with all new technologies, that prevent wide-scale adoption. Bioplastics and tetra-paks require special recycling plants, which are not available everywhere. They are generally more expensive to produce (a biodegradable forkmade from plant starch costs 3.5 times more than a basic white plastic one) and can often contaminate the traditional recycling process. Which is why it’s so important to continue to recycle right.

Delta Airlines, we know you can do better.

So what does transformative change look like? Incremental steps and easily repeatable actions. Swap out plastic cups for compostable at your next party. Managing an event on campus? Choose bioplastics over traditional or even better, fully reusable. Create a ripple effect at home and in your community. San Francisco International Airport now offers hot, cold, and room temperature water at their hydration stations, and people love it. And here at Barrel Bag, we love the fact that both the shipping (!) and the airline industries see the value of cutting out single-use plastics.

Change is coming, dear readers. The government and mainstream media are beginning to take notice. “Here’s a chance for the Biden administration to do more to combat this crisis than all the local plastic bag bans in the country combined,” Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the petition, said in a statement.

This month, join us in celebrating these incredible NGOs who convinced French shipping line CMA CGM to end shipping plastic waste! Their victory is ours, help us show them some love. Here are all 52 organizations’ contacts.

Plastic Pollutes

Beyond Plastics

A Plastic Planet

Zero Waste Europe

GAIA U.S.

Green Knowledge Foundation

ESDO

Both Ends

TX Environment

CFET

Microplastic Research Group

Circular Economy

 

 

Biodiversity a Global Risk

Biodiversity a global economic risk

The World Economic Forum has listed the loss of biodiversity to be one of the top 10 global risks our planet faces.

CFAs vs non-CFAs

Courtesy: Hakai Magazine,Illustration by Mercedes Minck https://hakaimagazine.com/news/how-mpas-can-pay-for-their-own-protection/

Marine Protected Areas, or MPAs, are vast swathes of the ocean that when enforced correctly, act just like the U.S. national parks system. They protect biodiversity against overfishing and the destruction of habitats and ecosystems by ecotourism. MPAs are meant to protect against mega fishing and shipping industries, but can often hurt local populations, indigenous communities. Thankfully there may be a shift in thinking towards more inclusive solutions in the realm of marine conservation.

Nine organizations, including the Bezos Earth Fund, have pledged $5 billion over the next decade to “support the creation, expansion, management, and monitoring of protected and conserved areas of land, inland water, and sea, working with Indigenous Peoples…”

Four tiers of MPAs exist: Fully Protected, Less Protected, Designated, and Proposed. The Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor is the latest proposed MPA involving

Ecuador, Panama, Columbia, and Costa Rica. There are a fair number of MPAs around North and South America, with the most around Australia, and the least around the coast of Europe and England.

But a very small percentage of proposed or existing MPAs are fully enforced, rarely with the inclusion of local community leaders if at all. In fact, MPAs are the victim of their own success when fishers target the conservation areas for their rich biomass. New strategies, like the Conservation Finance Area proposed by UCSB scholars, could work. Ensuring local communities have a say in how MPAs are enforced will be critical to their success.

“We can use science to translate ancestral wisdom into a modern context, and highlight another path forward—one that is not only more effective but also addresses environmental justice issues for indigenous peoples,” says a biocultural ecologist at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology.

MPA Map Marine-conservation.org

Image from: https://marine-conservation.org/us-seastates-2021/

Despite countries pushing ahead with their conservation efforts, we can see that overfishing and habitat destruction faces an enforcement problem. By charging fishers for access to areas just outside the MPAs, enforcement could pay for itself. It’s what we do to protect the integrity of our waterways and national lands, why not the ocean as well?

If crafted correctly, the CFA could provide a perpetual budget for the enforcement of MPAs. Coupled with a new international funding mechanism like the Community Land Rights and Conservation Finance Initiative (CLARIFI), we could see MPAs fulfill their promise of being a superpower in the fight to conserve and heal our oceans.

We have severely altered two-thirds of the ocean, with only 2.8% of the ocean fully or highly protected from fishing. The problems we face start with our actions and flow elsewhere, not just downstream. Scientists have found major plastic pollution in the MPAs in the Mediterranean. Over half of the plastic found came from elsewhere.

If these big blue walls are breached, if these precious superhighways for marine life are exploited, everyone loses. Loss of biodiversity = lower productivity = lower economic performance. We know that MPAs work to various degrees, supercharging the health of ecosystems by allowing fish to mature, reversing the trend of shrinking sea life from fishery-induced evolution. If we can support indigenous communities in their effort to restore degraded MPAs, it will go a long way in maintaining the health of our oceans.

Tune into the Ocean Plastic Virtual Summit which is free to join and runs from Jan 25-26, you can sign up here.

OPLN will be holding a US-specific plastic treaty dialogue on Jan 27 from 12-2 eastern. Open invitation, no fees for participation.

Thank you to our ecosystem of partners for stepping up the past two years, keeping the Barrel Bag community connected and thriving.

We are ecstatic to share with you that our team and our partnerships have grown! We are also thrilled to join The Global Plastics Treaty Dialogue. While we strongly believe in the power of one, we know the fight against plastic pollution takes a united force for good. Here is to a fantastic start of the year, and a continued commitment to keeping our oceans healthy.

Seagrass Ecological Superpower

Seagrass: An Ecological Superpower Fighting Plastic Pollution

The wonders of seagrass are only now just being realized, with new studies indicating that the restoration of seagrass habitats leads to the rapid recovery of coastal ecosystems.

One of the major modern-day tragedies currently happening right now is the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

But did you know that we are losing at least 7% of seagrass fields every year as well?

Scientists were thrilled to discover the natural microplastic collection and purging process that this critical ecosystem provides the ocean. These grasses have been enriching, protecting, and nurturing coastal communities since the dinosaurs. Their roots hold seafloor sediment in place, their leaves filter out polluting chemicals, even a single blade can provide sanctuary for communities of microscopic marine life. Seagrass meadows are even known to make a gentle sound underwater much like tiny bells. These sounds are believed to guide everything from larvae to sharks.

U.N. report estimates that while these powerhouses of the sea cover only about 0.1 percent of the ocean floor, they perform up to 18 percent of the ocean’s carbon sequestration.

Illustration of seagrass

Right now scarring from boat propellers, chemical runoff, and overfishing coupled with extreme weather all threaten to destroy entire meadows. The forgotten Serengettis of the sea threatens to collapse under the destructive weight of the microplastics settling down upon them.

But efforts in Florida, Virginia, Australia, and parts of Europe have proven that seagrass meadows can be reseeded successfully. Scientists around the planet have raised the alarm, increasing their efforts to map and monitor seagrass colonies all over the world.

“I’m pitching seagrasses as an ally in climate change. They are an incredible ecosystem that continues to provide a wealth of benefits to humanity,” says Jonathan Lefcheck, a research scientist at the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center.

Offset your carbon footprint and defend our coasts and oceans with Project Seagrass Grow.

Citizen scientists across the planet are pitching in by reporting seagrass locations with the smartphone app SeagrassSpotter.

Shoutout to amazing souls at The Inn at Manzanillo Bay in Troncones Beach, Mexico.

Picture of clean up Bag

We love it when inns, hotels, and resorts promote stewardship of the land they occupy. The coastal state of Guerrero is home to many beach villages whose main economy is the hospitality industry. It’s incredible to see small business owners align with our values, promoting clean beaches through individual action.

Keep up the good work Barrel Bag fam, we made it through another year. Let’s keep building on the momentum we’ve created.

Wishing you and yours peace and light for the rest of the year, and a fresh fighting spirit in the battle against single-use plastics in 2022.

Serious cash flow by burning plastic waste, claiming it as eco-friendly

Consumer goods and cement companies have come together to create serious cash flow by burning plastic waste, claiming it as eco-friendly.

Cement-makers and plastics goods manufacturers are heralding a new solution to solve our world’s problem of plastics. A “climate-neutral” solution that poses little to no threat to the environment and people. And what is that new solution, dear readers?

Plastic waste is skyrocketing and key cement players around the planet plan to quadruple or even quintuple their use of plastic waste in cement production. “It’s like moving the landfill from the ground to the sky,”, says Yobel Novian Putra, an advocate with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a coalition of groups working to eliminate waste.
Proponents say when the kilns burn hot enough, all toxic substances are incinerated. But accidents happen, like in Austria where a facility burned waste industrial waste only to taint a nearby dairy farm. Residents nearby had hexachlorobenzene in their blood, which can damage the nervous system, liver, and thyroid. HCB was released into the atmosphere because local regulators failed to ensure the kiln was running hot enough to destroy contaminants.
“The cement industry should leap-frog the whole burning-waste paradigm and move to clean fuel.” Lee Bell, advisor to the International Pollutants Elimination Network.

Maryland Elected Officials, ban burning single-use plastics and make plastic producers take responsibility.

Every year 1.5 billion toothpaste tubes are trashed worldwide – check out this article for some great alternatives.

Did you know 1,500 plastic water bottles end up in a landfill or in the ocean every second? No worries we’ve got you covered with another great list of alternatives you can swap out for plastic water bottles.

No significant climate benefit is to be gained from substituting plastic for coal, and that burning this waste in cement kilns can create harmful air pollution that must be monitored.

“Thinking that we recycle waste only, and that we should avoid plastic waste, then you can quote me on this: People believe in fairy tales,” Axel Pieters, chief executive of one of the world’s largest cement makers, and partner with Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola in plastic-fuel ventures.

There are over 3,000 cement kilns on the planet hungry for fuel. And with the production of plastics looking to continue to increase, there is nothing that can stop this trend. It would take collective action on a local and national level to 1. Begin to heal the damage caused by these plants and 2. Bring this issue into national focus. Right now the EPA’s last entry regarding cement kilns on their website is 2002 and for the Department of Justice, it’s 2014. Our leaders *know* the harm this practice can cause to the environment, to communities. One kid from Maryland decided he’s had enough.

Youth leader Carlos Sanchez from Lakeland High School in South Baltimore made a plea to residents and government leaders to join the cause and sign a petition calling for a halt to burning plastic. Show your support for his activism and for the people of Baltimore and join us in signing his petition!

Finally, we are thrilled to share with you our ongoing partnership with Heritage Conservancy. They preserve over 15,500 acres of open space, farmland, wildlife habitat, and important watershed areas in southeast Pennsylvania and foster environmental stewardship within their communities. By using Barrel Bag (and handing them out to volunteers) they have cleaned up trash and plastic waste in their community without adding trash bags to the waste.

Many people are completely unaware of this blitzkrieg to burn plastic waste, let’s make some noise.

Where Does Our Plastic Waste Go?

Many reports, including the one published in 2016 by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, listed these top 5 countries as the most prominent plastic polluters: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Ironically, four out of five of these countries contribute the least to annual carbon emissions worldwide.

There are multiple reasons why these countries are coined to be the “biggest plastic polluters,” including the mishandling of plastic waste, inaccessibility to sustainable goods, or outcomes of consumerism and capitalism. Out of curiosity, I wonder why reports usually end up with these rankings. After investigating, I found out that there is a coin often unturned. The plastic waste found in these countries does not entirely belong to them.

HOW DID ALL OF THIS START?

Until 2018, China managed to buy recyclable plastic waste from many western countries like the US, Britain, and Germany, among many others, to transform these into new products sold back worldwide. However, the problems of contamination and pollution forced them to ban the importation of plastic waste. They declared they would no longer buy plastic waste that is not 99.5% clean or pure, leading to the US and other western countries scrambling to offload their trash elsewhere.

“Instead of taking responsibility for their waste, US companies are exploiting developing countries that lack the regulation to protect themselves,” said John Hocevar, Oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA.

Many Western countries grew into the practice of dumping their waste on different soil. In a recent report by the Guardian in 2019, they discovered how US waste travels overseas and overwhelms the world’s poorest nations. They found that thousands of tons of US plastic are shipped annually to poorly regulated developing countries because of recycling’s labor-intensive process.

Last 2018, they discovered that the US exported 68,000 shipping containers of American plastic recycling to developing countries like Bangladesh, Laos, Ethiopia, and Senegal. These countries became a hotspot for US plastic recycling because of the cheap labor and limited environmental regulations. Aside from the US, the European Union is also a significant contributor to plastic waste.

Now, this poses a new question: Is recycling an effective way of combatting plastic pollution?

The Complicated Relationship of Plastic and Climate Change

When we first think about plastic, what usually comes to mind is where they end up after disposal. We know that many of our plastic pollutions, especially single-use plastic, end up in our oceans, waterways, and landfills. The way plastic makes almost everything convenient for us subsequently poses a danger to our marine life and clogs our landfills. But do you know about its genesis? 

Plastic and Climate Change

Scientists project that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fishes in our seas. Plastic is genuinely one of the most persistent pollutants present in different ecosystems, and they would live longer than any of us. Most single-use plastic lasts for 400 years or more. At the beginning of its “life,” plastic creates greenhouse gas emissions that harm our atmosphere and contribute to global warming. They continue to emit more once they are exposed to sunlight and heat for a long period of time.

According to this article by WWF Australia, “almost all plastic is derived from materials (like ethylene and propylene) made from fossil fuels (mostly oil and gas).” There are billions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses released in our atmosphere when we extract fossil fuels and manufacture different kinds of plastics. 

The problem doesn’t end there. In its lifetime, plastic enters different ecosystems. Our relationship with plastic causes an extra level of harm to our environment. Let me share with you some of these facts according to SeedScientific.com:

  • Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year. 
  • The world uses 500 billion single-use plastic bags every year.
  • A plastic bag is used for only 15 minutes on average but can last for a millennium.
  • 91% of all the plastic ever created has not been recycled.
  • Among the grimmest plastic pollution facts of 2019 is that no beach on the planet today is free of plastic trash
  • By 2050, landfill plastic waste will be 35,000x as heavy as the Empire State Building.

What can we do?

There has to be a systemic change in curbing plastic production and recycling plastic waste globally. We must proactively appeal to our government leaders to stop greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating climate change in all sectors. At a local level, reducing our plastic use and practicing a more sustainable lifestyle are some of the things we can collectively do to slow down the effects of climate change. Here in Barrel Bag, we offer eco-friendly and sustainable cleanup bags made from fabric made of recycled plastic. We also hold virtual cleanups during the pandemic to avoid plastic accumulation in our oceans, waterways, and even just in our neighborhood. We must continue educating ourselves on the effects of our current behaviors and reevaluate the practices that we do that brought us here in the first place.

 

Sources:

https://www.wwf.org.au/news/blogs/plastic-waste-and-climate-change-whats-the-connection#gs.l225i6

https://seedscientific.com/plastic-waste-statistics/

Virtual Clean Up Results

Despite being in quarantine, our Barrel Bag community was able to collect 227 cubic feet of plastic and 59 cubic feet of trash.

Congratulations to our giveaway winners @sea_dreamer_ for participating in the most cleanups and @kendraperrycoaching for collecting the most trash!

Thank you so much to our community members, partners, & our entire team for joining our movement and leading the way to keep our environment clean. If you’re bummed you didn’t win, don’t worry, we will be hosting another Virtual Cleanup soon! Follow us on Instagram @barrelbag for updates!

The Reality of California’s Plastic Bag Pollution Situation

In this “mockumentary”, Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons, narrates the harsh reality of California’s plastic pollution. Let us know your insights!

 

Credit Video name: The Majestic Plastic Bag by Heal The Bay

Credit Link: www.healthebay.org