Writer: CHARLIE FLETCHER
Every year, nearly 23 million tons of plastic waste leaks into the world’s water systems, polluting the oceans, lakes, and rivers.
This kind of pollution is not only detrimental to the planet and wildlife, but it poses a risk to human health as well. As such, it is vital that we take bigger steps to mitigate further damage, and social media has the power to help us do that.
The Problem: Plastic
The world is drowning in plastic. We are choking on it. The planet is essentially orbiting the sun with a plastic bag over its head, which is slowly cutting it off from the things it needs to survive — air, nutrients, and water. This is a brutal image, but it’s necessary to point out how serious of an issue plastic pollution is.
In 1950, only around 2 million tons of plastic were produced but in 2018, the world produced 359 million tons. That’s a 357 million increase over the course of only 70 years, which is a lot, and it’s only getting worse.
The problem is primarily single-use plastics, which are used for a wide range of products, such as grocery bags, food containers, and product packaging.
We use these kinds of plastics once and then throw them away, which leads to mountains of plastic piling up as the material can take hundreds of years to break down. And while these plastics are breaking down, they are leaching toxic chemicals into the ground and water systems.
Not only does plastic harm nature, but there is so much plastic all around us now that it is becoming detrimental to human health as well. Humans are now inhaling and ingesting thousands of microplastic particles each year, which can lead to respiratory issues, increased cancer risk, birth defects, fertility issues, and more.
The problem is also that despite recycling efforts, only a very small percentage of plastics actually get recycled, which leaves the rest to end up in landfills or polluting the oceans. Thus, the answer isn’t recycling, it’s a more effective change that comes from eliminating the unnecessary use of plastic in the first place.
The Solution: Social Media Campaigning
Social media isn’t the direct solution to plastic pollution, but it does have the power to effect greater change. Tackling plastic pollution is a collective responsibility, and social media is a tool that enables the collective whole to more easily work together to spread awareness and push for change.
Already, we are seeing the powerful effects of social media campaigning. For example, in 2015, photojournalist and activist James Wakiba started a social media campaign in Kenya using the hashtag #banplasticsKE to call for a ban on plastic bags, which led to others creating the hashtag #IsupportbanplasticsKE. And now, Kenya is banning all plastic bags.
Today, numerous social media campaigns around the world have contributed to increased awareness and even action being taken to combat the problem. Some examples include the Save Our Shores campaign, Zero Plastic Hero, Clear on Plastics, as well as the UN’s #BeatPlasticPollution and #PlasticFreeJuly campaigns.
These campaigns and more are so effective because, through social media, they’re able to reach so many more people than traditional campaigning methods. And once these campaigns reach the masses, they enable people to more easily come together to put pressure on local and global organizations and governments to take action.
How You Can Help
Though tackling plastic pollution might seem daunting, it’s really as simple as creating a hashtag and then using it in all of your social media posts.
The more posts you generate with that hashtag, the more the information you are sharing will spread.
Thanks to the power of social media, it can quickly spread like wildfire and easily reach thousands, even millions, of people in a matter of days or weeks.
When you create your hashtag, think of something specific that will stand out or even make it personal. For example, let’s say you want to start a campaign to stop the use of plastic packaging, you could create the hashtag #100DaysofNoPlastic and then use that hashtag to make posts about how you aren’t buying any products that come in plastic packaging for 100 days.
Every time you go shopping at the grocery store or anywhere else, make a post about the products you are buying and the ones you are avoiding because of plastic use.
The more you use the hashtag and the more you post, the more others will see what you are doing and share your content, and they will likely even start following suit and commit to their own #100DaysofNoPlastic.
The key is to weave the hashtag into all of your content, including Instagram posts, stories, reels, Twitter posts, and TikTok videos. You can also bolster your posts with other related hashtags to help your content reach more people, such as #plasticpollution, #climatechange, and #banplastics.
If you really want to get serious about it, you can even use analytics tools to track and measure the impacts of your social media campaigns. This can give you insights into what is working and what is not so you can make changes and adjustments to help your campaign be more effective moving forward.
Though you are only one person and creating your own little campaign might not seem like a big deal, it can rapidly turn into something significant when you wield the power of social media. The more people start doing things like this on social media, the more it will put pressure on the companies that are responsible for the manufacturing and use of plastics. It can even help put more pressure on governments to enact more effective policy changes to help cut down on plastic use.
[Featured Image Credit]