On November 16, Earth.Org had a conversation with Merijn Tinga, a biologist, artist, plastic soup surfer and environmental activist who has been fighting to reduce ocean plastic pollution since 2014. His innovative campaigns through kiteboarding and stand up paddleboarding expeditions have led to the Dutch government adopting a tax deposit fee for small plastic bottles, and held companies accountable for their plastic waste. In this fireside chat, we discussed Merijn’s past creative campaigns and how best to engage with governments and corporations to produce concrete solutions.
Merijn spoke with Earth.Org about several topics, including:
- New research emerged earlier this year that 1,000 rivers are responsible for 80% of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Plastic waste in the water bodies reaches up to 0.8 -2.7 million metric tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.
- How he successfully petitioned a deposit return scheme for small plastic bottles to the Dutch government by raising awareness and producing his own resolution to the parliament, demonstrating a clear path for legislative adoption.
- How creative campaigns and statistical data on plastic waste was used to get the attention of stakeholders and plastic producers including big corporations such as Coca-Cola and Mars Incorporated, but through “trust and listening”, nuanced conversation and common values can be achieved.
- Political pressure, cooperation with companies, and consumer action form the three pillars to create real change and measures to reduce plastic pollution.
While Merijn doesn’t foresee a world without plastic and does acknowledge its value and functionality, the world collectively has the ability to significantly reduce plastic consumption and waste, and to dispose plastics responsibly. Since the deposit return scheme was formally adopted in the Netherlands earlier this year, plastic litter has already dropped by more than 70% within the span of three months. Change can happen quite rapidly, but we need the courage of policymakers and consumers to make it happen.
You can check out the full length video of Earth.Org ‘s conversation with Merijn Tinga below:
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