Why I Chose to Focus on Reducing Plastic Waste (In response to "Anti-plastic focus 'dangerous distraction' from climate change" article)


While working towards my MBA in Sustainability, I had trouble choosing which environmental issue to focus on post graduation.

First, I chose climate change because of the urgency behind it. Then, as I learned more through my masters program, I realized the importance of working to reduce plastic waste.

Partially in response to a recent article published by BBC News claiming that focusing on plastic waste was a dangerous distraction from climate change, I'm sharing why:

Nature can survive climate change (we might not)

Most people don't realize we aren't really fighting climate change to save the planet, but to save ourselves. And, our co-inhabiters. I certainly didn't realize this going into getting my masters. 

Nature is resilient. It has bounced back from billions of years of changes, including previous global shifts in climate. 

Whether we're too late for climate change is an unknown. But we know that nature will try and revive itself. So, whatever is left on this planet after the blows of climate change, I want to give it a fighting chance.

Nature has revived post climate change, but never with plastic.

Whether it's humans, minos, or mycelium — nature will need potable water and/or edible sources of energy (food) to make its big comeback. This hasn't been an issue in its previous revivals, but plastic poses a big threat to the ecosystem nature has relied on to bounce back with in the past.

If we want to make sure nature comes back as usual, we need to stop infusing it with lasting micro plastic in its water and food systems.

Companies won't innovate away from plastic if we keep using it

I don't know how else to describe this point beyond its headline, other than to reemphasize. If you get it, move on to the next point.

It's only when consumers show they want change through shopping and social behavior that companies will spend money on change. 

When we show companies we aren't OK with plastic, we encourage them to find more sustainable alternatives. 


Plastic emits ghg, just like some plastic alternatives, at least after alternatives there isn't plastic.

When anything that's organic or biodegradable — food, grain salad bowl, paper cup, etc — ends up in landfill, it emits methane — a greenhouse gas way worse than CO2. Plastic doesn't break down as quickly, so it doesn't emit as much.

The argument in favor of plastic to follow this fact is that plastic is better for the planet because it prevents more ghg emissions.  

But, this argument seems to always fail to mention the ghg emissions from plastic production.

Plastics production is responsible for 1% to 3% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that's just in the US. Switching to an oil plastic alternative, like plant-based plastics, could reduce industry-wide GHG emissions by 25% annually. Imagine how much ghg emissions would be reduced if companies keep innovating, or we curb our use.

Plastic production is expected to keep growing

I will leave my final reasoning with this excerpt from the NY Times recapping a study released last month (October 2018):
"Petrochemicals are currently the largest industrial energy consumer and the third-largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. The report found that direct greenhouse gas emissions from petrochemicals would increase 20 percent by 2030 and 30 percent by 2050.

The main driver of the petrochemical industry’s growing climate footprint, according to the report, will be plastics."


Today, I run a company focusing on beautifully designed alternatives to single-use plastic items. Here is Silvr, our launching product.

There's a .gif of it to the left <. Would love any feedback you have.
olivia@silvrinc.com.



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