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  • Writer's picturePeter Yolles

Plastics now found in rain and snow

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Getting Images, Antarctica Ice

Pure water. Sounds good, right? Take a moment and think about where the purest water might be found. A mountain stream? A melting snowfield or glacier? Rainwater?

If you said any of these, I have news for you. They will all be polluted by something we haven’t seen in rain and snow before: plastic. (Science) It turns out that the ocean plastics are breaking down into nanoplastic particles that are carried into the atmosphere with evaporation. (World Economic Forum) For the first time, plastic was discovered in fresh snowfall in Antarctica. An average of 29 plastic particles per liter was found in every one of 19 samples of fresh snowfall. (Guardian)

Microplastics are blowing all over the world, landing in supposedly pure habitats, like the Arctic and the remote French Pyrenees. They’re flowing into the oceans via wastewater and tainting deep-sea ecosystems, and they’re even ejecting out of the water and blowing onto land in sea breezes. And now in the American West, and presumably across the rest of the world given that these are fundamental atmospheric processes, they are falling in the form of plastic rain—the new acid rain.” (Wired)

It turns out we are likely drinking, and even breathing, plastic with every sip and inhale. I’m reminded of the Hopi phrase: "What we do to water, we do to ourselves, and to the ones we love.”

So, what can be done and where does Echo River Capital fit into the solution set? I’m pondering leverage points in the life cycle analysis from plastic alternatives, to manufacturing, to end of life.

I’m also thinking about the depth of responsibility that water protectors have for caring about and taking action in plastic pollution. I wonder: Where are the opportunities for Echo River to participate in solving the plastic problem? Perhaps one step is for us all to better understand the plastic life cycle envisioned here, and focus on reuse and recycling.

The European Union appears to be fertile ground for investing in plastic solutions. Europe consumes 50 million tons of plastic each year, of which 39% is incinerated, 31% is sent to landfill and the remainder is shipped abroad. (Science Direct) That equates to 180 Kg of packaging waste per person.

Restructuring the throwaway single-use plastic system is critical for reducing plastic waste. The European Union issued a directive in 2021 restricting single-use plastics for which alternatives are available. The EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan encourages a circular economy for plastic packaging along their entire lifecycle. And today, 30 November 2022, the EU is proposing a “revision of the EU legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste, which has three main objectives.

1. Prevent the generation of packaging waste: reduce it in quantity, restrict unnecessary packaging and promote reusable and refillable packaging solutions.

2. Boost high quality (‘closed loop') recycling: make all packaging on the EU market recyclable in an economically viable way by 2030.

3. And finally, to reduce the need for primary natural resources and create a well-functioning market for secondary raw materials, increasing the use of recycled plastics in packaging through mandatory targets.”

Kudos to the EU! Stay tuned to learn more about Echo River’s efforts to address the scourge of plastic pollution.

“European citizens are eager to be rid of overpackaging and unnecessarily bulky packages, and businesses are ready to move forward with sustainable, innovative packaging solutions and systems.”

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal - 29/11/2022

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