The statistics are staggering: Plastic is now the most common element found in oceans.
• The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France.
• More than eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, akin to emptying one garbage truck of plastic into the sea every minute.
• More than 50% of all sea turtles have ingested plastic
And this may be the most disturbing fact of all: The Mariana Trench, just south of Japan, is the deepest spot on Earth, at more than 35,000 feet, and according to National Geographic, a study released in October 2018 and published in the Marine Policy journal documented a claim that a shopping bag was found at a depth of 36,000 feet inside the Mariana Trench. Scientists found it by looking through the Deep-Sea Debris Database, a collection of photos and videos taken from 5,010 dives over the previous 30 years. A whopping 89% of the plastic was single-use, the type that’s used once and then thrown away, like a plastic water bottle or disposable utensil.
And that, if I can be so bold, is the good news.
Yes. The crisis of plastics in our lives generally, and our oceans and waterways specifically, is literally a man-made crisis. We made the plastic, we dumped the plastic, and so the “good news” is that we can clean up the plastic.
And that is where small businesses come into play. You – we – can make a difference.
Start with Saturday, Sept. 21 — International Coastal Cleanup Day. Sponsored by the Ocean Conservancy, this day has brought together more than 12 million volunteers who have picked up more than 200 million pounds of trash from the world’s beaches, rivers, and lakes.
More: How to survive a recession if you’re a small business: It may be rocky but it’s possible
More: Managing millennials the path to success for your small business
More: Alibaba.com, the ‘Amazon of China,’ wants to help small businesses sell their wares
If plastic pollution is of concern to either you, your staff or your customers (and likely it is) then this is an easy and important way to make a difference.
Organizing a team cleanup is a bonding experience, an educational one, a powerful way to see the scope of the problem and an opportunity to make a positive impact all rolled into one.
But let’s drill down deeper. There are plenty of other things that the average small business can do to help:
Perform a waste audit
“Reduce, reuse, and recycle” isn’t just a good mantra, it should be a company policy. By analyzing what your small business is doing right and wrong on the plastics front, and then codifying necessary and vital changes, you can become part of the solution.
Be sure to place composting and recycling containers where they will be used and mandate that your team use them. Signage with pictures of what goes where can be useful in this regard, and waste management companies often supply free templates and directions.
Mandate eco-friendly habits
You will notice I didn’t say “encourage”; we are past that point frankly. Give your team reusable water bottles, coffee cups, etc. To encourage their use, provide your team with filtered tap water or spring water from a service.
Eliminate plastic packaging
Can you eliminate single-use containers and plastic bags? Do it. Now. What about switching to used cardboard boxes?
Know that you can make a difference
How does a giant ocean liner change direction? A mini-rudder on the main rudder called a trim tab turns the ship’s rudder. The bigger rudder then turns the ship. It is the tiny trim tab that starts it all.
You can be a trim tab, too.
By believing you can make a difference, and by making small changes in the right direction, your ship can begin to turn.
And, after all, if you don’t do it, who will?
Steve Strauss is an attorney, popular speaker, and the bestselling author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get even more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed, and connect with him on Twitter at @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.