Pointing fingers: Ocean plastic is tragedy of the commons

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

By Rob Kaplan, Forbes.com

Ocean plastic is a massive problem. But whose problem is it exactly? It depends who you ask.

A problem that does more than $13b of damage to marine ecosystems annually seems more the purview of large-scale government action than of individuals like you or me. But should we expect governments to absorb the costs? After all, it’s the corporations that create most plastic packaging and they are the ones that "put it out there.” Then again, they only use plastic packaging because consumers pay them money for it. If consumers stopped voting with their dollars in favor of plastic packaging or if they demanded that their governments incentivize change, there wouldn’t be so much plastic waste.

Then again, waste and recycling companies are part of the problem as well. We are now regularly reading stories about how U.S.-based entities have been overcharging municipalities for their services. And these companies point fingers back at cities saying that cities send them material that is too contaminated. Waste companies also blame recycling processors and end-markets because they won't pay them enough. And let’s not leave out the investors. Couldn’t they be putting their dollars to work by actively investing in businesses that are solving the problem and divesting or withholding funds from businesses that are part of the problem?

And so it goes. It would seem that ocean plastics is everyone’s problem and therefore no one’s problem, really.

Read the full article on forbes.com >