Plastic sucks. But it’s also very useful and incredibly cheap. How can something that pretty much never degrades be worth less than one cent per unit?! Looking at YOU Styrofoam! As you’re no doubt aware, plastic is freaking everywhere and it’s not going anywhere soon, unless we do something about it. “Doing something about it” is what I’ve been focusing on these last two months and what I’ll keep doing forever; or at least until the word “plastics” is only used in reference to the most popular girls in school!
The plastic pollution crisis is a perfect example of a wicked problem: a problem that does not have a clear source and for which there are multiple and divergent solutions. In order to tackle this problem in the Bay Islands, Think Beyond Plastic has sent myself and two other MIIS students to attack it on three fronts; education, policy, and business. I’ve been tasked with promoting policies that target plastic pollution. Practically, this means I spend a lot of time asking the people of the Bay Islands what is possible here, what is desirable, and what method will be most effective. I’ve interviewed dozens of stakeholders; from the local baleada chefs to the chief of police.
Through these varied exchanges I’ve learned a lot about the unique challenges and opportunities that exist here in Utila and the Bay Islands as a whole. Using these interviews and research into case studies from around the world, I’ve begun writing up a policy recommendation for Utila in particular and for islands in general. My hope is that the policy recommendation I’ve been working on will fall into the hands of fellow eco-warriors, policy makers, students, your shih tzu Krufty, or literally anyone else. They can add to it, subtract from it, tear it apart and revise it to fit their unique situation; the collaborative creation process is essential to successful policy.
I won’t weigh you down with all of the details, but one of the core components to successful plastic-pollution policies is participatory planning. This means that policy makers have to bring in diverse stakeholders and give them agency in the planning process and some responsibility for the implementation. This is particularly true for an island like Utila. There are limited resources for enforcement and implementation; without the support and participation of the community, initiatives will not succeed. A policy targeting plastic pollution needs to be inclusive, precise in its scope and objectives, and easily enforceable.
We are hoping to take a three-pronged approach to the plastic pollution crisis on the Bay Islands, consisting of municipal bans on single-use plastics, a deposit-refund system for plastic bottles, and an extended producer responsibility policy (make suppliers pay for the negative impacts of their products). Availability of alternatives is important, so I have been working with Bay Islanders to identify the plastic products that they can feasibly replace with alternatives, and working to find suppliers in Honduras and elsewhere to provide those alternatives. The items we are going to target will be single-use plastic bags, straws, and take out containers.
Coming up next month: A plastic-free carnival! Stay tuned 🙂
Work stuff aside, I would be remiss not to give a huge shout out to the Catrachos I’ve met, and how awesome Honduras is. I’ve made some great friends and been inspired by them.
Interviews and research have certainly not taken up all my time, and I’ve been doing all kinds of side projects, networking, and helping out anyone who will put up with me. Scroll down for some pictures and videos of my time here.
To anyone from the Academy watching, this is what I consider my greatest ever performance. Thank you for your consideration.