What is the problem?
In summary, from my learning log notes above regarding the briefs request to unpick the issues these can be divided into environmental, economic and a public health issue.
The environmental side is that these plastics are killing wildlife, even endangering some species as discarded plastics are poisonous or may cause animals to suffer malnutrition and/or starvation if ingested. Plastics may also may block sewers and restrict normal flows of water which in turn may deplete local areas of water so animals in that habitat may die or be forced to move away to find other sources of water. Also producing plastic bags is also a drain of our natural crude oil supplies.
The economic impact is from the loss of visitors to an area as it may be unsightly or as previously discussed lead to declining water levels in the area due to blocked sewers & therefore push the wildlife that may be an attraction for people to come and admire to move elsewhere. The loss of visitors to an area of course impacts local businesses, hotels, shops, restaurants etc as a loss of revenue and if it declines so much businesses may have to shut down resulting in a higher rate of unemployment in the area. The cost as well on the local councils to unblock the sewers or tidy up the discarded plastic is a factor too.
The possible health risk stems from the fact that the plastic bags eventually degrade into microplastics that can be absorbed by the soil and seep into water ways or can degrade directly into waterways and oceans and be ingested by land animals and sea-life that is then caught and prepared for human consumption. There needs to be more research on this as at the moment the effects on human health are not proven, it is just a recognised possible risk.
To tackle this brief I need to do research into the effects of plastic pollution so the info can be used to educate the local people/visitors into being more responsible with their rubbish. I need to look at the council’s input, at their current waste and recycling policy. If it is not adequate I will need their support in implementing more bins or regularly collecting waste etc. Perhaps working with them to create billboards/signs/posters in the area to encourage locals to do their bit ant discard things responsibly. I also need to contact local businesses do research into how much more eco friendly bags cost & if the local shops are willing & can afford to make a swap.
- What businesses currently give away plastic bags?
- Are there adequate rubbish bins at the scenic spots in question? If there are, are they emptied regularly?
- Who goes to these scenic spots? So the solution can be aimed at them.
- What are the eco friendly alternatives to plastic bags?
- How much do they cost?
Creatively solving problems
Starting with the obvious that have already been done.
- Replace plastic bags with paper ones.
- Ban the use of plastic bags
- Charge for plastic bags
- Shops sell reusable/recyclable bags
- Give away these reusable bags at first
- Tv & poster ad campaigns to make people aware of environmental effects of plastic and to discourage their use & use alternatives
Thinking more creatively….
- Community events to clean up plastic, sponsored by local businesses. Good publicity for business’s to show they care about the community. Also spreads the message that the area is attractive & well kept & good to visit again.
- Get schools involved in the clean up & educate on the dangers of discarded plastic & teach alternatives. Children can put pressure on parents to stop using plastic bags. The kids could have a project in school to make their own reusable bags to then take away and use instead of shop bags.
- Older school kids or college kids could have an advertising campaign task in which they design posters etc for the community to create awareness of discarding plastics responsibly and using other eco friendly alternatives.
- Local businesses produce their own posters etc to encourage customers to discard plastic more thoughtfully or even better to consider alternatives. Work together with other local businesses so message is inescapable & pool resources on costs of producing these.
- Business’s produce their own branded eco friendly re-usable bags so they get free publicity. These can have diff designs seasonally/yearly & become collectors things? Or have scenes of the local beauty spots on them and be attractive for tourists to buy to use when there & to take home as souvenirs perhaps?
- Have an event in town where locals/anyone visiting can make their own reusable shopping bag?? Or businesses can each host bag making events?
Reflections on proposals from other points of view
I drew a table in my handwritten log to jot down the possible views of the effected parties in the brief. This really helped me identify any possible criticisms of the solutions and think of modifications etc before presenting them to the client. It also allowed me to come up with more solutions in response to the possible criticisms.
Larger issues & solutions?
This issue is more complex than just replacing plastic bags with paper ones in the local shops and making sure there are enough accessible bins/recycling points in the area talked about. This is an issue worldwide that needs addressing. The implications that I found out from my research is that discarded plastic bags and the disposal of plastics in general is a huge environmental problem that we can’t ignore. We must stop using plastics before the effect becomes irreversible, and find alternatives before animal species become extinct and we find ourselves lost under a pile of plastic because we have nowhere else left to put it. We are so used to convenience as a society that it will take big change in our attitudes and habits to help with this. Education is a big part of this and it is something that should have the support and input by the government to implement big changes. We have already seen some like the banning of plastic bags and having to implement a charge for bags etc, but clearly this is just a start and is not enough. Perhaps there needs to be more research into more eco friendly packaging and more money spent as a nation on recycling etc.
This task has highlighted the importance of doing thorough research around a topic & to think deeply about all the problems and solutions and in a more radical way, perhaps even outside of what you have been asked to do. It also showed how useful it is when evaluating my ideas to do so from different peoples points of view to gain a better understanding and to develop and come up with more radical solutions for the brief.
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The Guardian. 2018. Q&A: Plastic bags | Environment | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/nov/13/plasticbags.pollution. [Accessed 08 October 2018].
Plastic Pollution Coalition. 2018. How To Hold Government Accountable for Reducing Plastic Pollution — Plastic Pollution Coalition. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/2/28/how-to-hold-governments-accountable-for-reducing-plastic-pollution. [Accessed 08 October 2018].
Economic Impact – Plastic Bags. 2018. Economic Impact – Plastic Bags. [ONLINE] Available at: https://allaboutplasticbags.weebly.com/economic-impact.html. [Accessed 08 October 2018].
PlasticsToday. 2018. The economic effect of plastic bag bans | PlasticsToday. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.plasticstoday.com/content/economic-effect-plastic-bag-bans/35843076718443. [Accessed 08 October 2018].