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  • Marwa Kaabour

Out of Plastic: Into a Healthier Planet


Planet vs.  Plastic
Earth Day 2024

 

As we stand today, the omnipresence of plastic is undeniable—it's in everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink and the food we consume. Plastics are not only found in obvious items like water bottles and bags but also in unexpected places, including airplanes and even outer space.

 

Nearly every industry, from FMCG to aviation, healthcare, and packaged foods, relies heavily on plastic. Unfortunately, this material is remarkably durable, with some types taking over 400 years to break down, while others may never fully degrade.

 

According to EarthDay.org, the global theme of 'Planet vs. Plastic' for this year’s Earth Day, aims to end plastic pollution by inspiring global, national, and local changes. The organisation underscores the necessity for systemic change across the entire plastic life cycle to improve pollution laws and regulations, corporate standards, and community education.

 

The staggering statistic that humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute and use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags annually highlights the urgency of this issue.


End plastic pollution
Recycling plastic

 

Challenges and Opportunities in Recycling

 

While recycling offers a path toward sustainability, it is fraught with challenges. It's crucial for marketers to lead the way in shifting consumer behaviours, encouraging the adoption of sustainable alternatives. Effective recycling isn't just environmentally necessary; it's a business that requires economic investment and consumer participation.

 

Globally, about 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, a figure that's steadily rising. Unfortunately, less than 10% of all plastic has ever been recycled, much of which is downcycled into products of lesser quality, which are harder to recycle or not recyclable at all. This reality stresses the need for better product designs and more effective recycling systems.

 

Plastic's Environmental Impact

 

Plastic pollution has significantly affected our oceans, demonstrating that no part of our planet is isolated; marine debris affects every ocean, threatening wildlife, and ecosystems. Plastic debris has even been identified in remote areas of the world and floating in the microgravity of space—highlighting the extensive reach of human impact and complicating our aspirations for space exploration.

 

Initiatives Against Plastic Pollution

 

The UAE has taken commendable steps to curb single-use plastic consumption through both government regulations and community-driven programs. For example, Abu Dhabi's policy, initiated in 2021 to ban single-use plastic bags, was extensively promoted to ensure that residents and businesses were ready for the transition. The campaign educated the public on the environmental impacts of single-use plastics and promoted reusable alternatives.


No more plastic in Abu Dhabi
The UAE Bans Single-Use Plastic Bags

 

Another outstanding initiative is "Dubai Can" campaign, which reduces single-use plastic water bottles by promoting refillable bottles. This project includes installing water stations across the city, supported by a robust marketing campaign utilising digital media, public events, and collaborations with influencers to enhance public awareness about reducing plastic waste.


Free drinking water in public areas of Dubai
Dubai Can Sustainability Efforts

 

Ways to Engage in Reducing Plastic Waste


Innovative Companies Making a Difference: Some companies are leading the way in reducing plastic waste through creative solutions, such as committing to using only recycled materials.

 

Community Recycling Efforts: Initiatives like 'Simply Bottles' in the UAE encourage recycling plastic bottles into clothing, showcasing practical recycling applications.

 

Opting for Reusables: Choosing reusable bags, bottles, and containers over single-use plastics is a simple yet effective way to reduce waste.

 

Supporting Responsible Brands: Choosing products from companies that prioritise sustainable, minimal, or recycled packaging can drive industry-wide change.

 

Recycling Properly: Staying informed about local recycling regulations ensures plastics are recycled effectively.

 

Participating in Community Clean-Ups: Joining or organising clean-up events helps remove plastic waste from the environment.

 

 

The Imperative for Marketers


Sustainability is increasingly becoming a career imperative for marketers. I have taken it to heart to undergo sustainability studies and earn relevant certifications in this field way before this was part of my work remit. And this has enabled me to progress and help my brands progress on the sustainability journey.

 

This Earth Day, let us transform our awareness into action. We all have the power to support a circular economy and say ‘No’ to plastics, setting ambitious zero-waste targets to better our planet. Let’s pledge to make sustainable choices not just today but every day, ensuring a healthier, plastic-free environment for future generations.

 

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