How to Turn Plastic Anger into Practical Activism

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve seen our stats about how little plastic is actually recycled. And as you picture yourself scrubbing that peanut butter off empty jars so it can go into the recycling bin, we understand the anger. We’ve been there. But we are here to help. Here are the 3 stages of plastic anger you will most likely go through and a brain exercise on how to turn your anger into practical activism.

By Sanny Visser

Stage 1: Apathy 

Dealing with such a profound realization isn’t easy. Between climate change, deforestation, and animal extinctions, it’s almost too much for anyone to bear. So, like many people, I tried denying it for a while. Here’s a list of the things I refused to believe just so I could sleep at night: 

  • Plastic isn’t usually recycled at all, only about 9% of all the plastic ever produced has been recycled at this point. 
  • We dump several metric tons of plastic into the oceans every single year - oceans, not landfills
  • According to projections, the production of plastic will quadruple by the year 2050. 

I just kept carefully separating my recyclables at the recycling center every week like I was making a difference. Meanwhile, a little voice kept creeping into my head was saying, “You’re doing all this work for no reason.”

Stage 2: Anger 

“What’s wrong, mama?” said my 4-year-old son as I kicked the recycling bin outside my house in a fit of frustrated rage. It was 5 o’clock in the evening, it had been a long day, and the bag was stuck in the bin. I just kept thinking about how much effort I was putting into this for such a minuscule return. Meanwhile, my son was trying his best to do the right thing by catching all of the falling bottles before putting them back in the bin one by one. 

Our oceans have been around longer than we have - 3.8 billion years to be exact. The rivers and oceans flow together to create a magnificent ecosystem that sustains the planet and all life forms on it. At the same time, we humans craft single-use products from materials that last over 400 years and then dump those materials into non-renewable natural resources like rivers, oceans, and streams. So, what am I supposed to tell my son in 20 years? That his plastic recycling efforts were for nothing? If he’s anything like me, he’ll get angry instantly. 

STEP 3: Action 

There I was, all worked up with nothing to do. I wasn’t mad at us, the consumers. After all, we had been lied to and most of us were doing the best we could with what we had. We’d go through the motions of recycling plastics like we were saving the world - scrubbing containers, separating items before processing, whatever it took. Our concern was cleaning and maintaining this beautiful planet we call home. But instead of staying angry, I got to work turning that anger into action. Here’s a little brain exercise I use to cut through the frustration and get motivated for change: 

  • I accept my feelings of regret, frustration, grief, and worry. They’re all signs that I’m concerned about the right things. 
  • I stop telling myself that climate injustice is out of our hands. We are not powerless. 
  • I decided to stop dwelling on the damage that has already been done. It’s almost too overwhelming to comprehend. 
  • I get honest with myself about my individual contributions to the problem, then look for ways to lessen my environmental impact one behavior at a time. 
  • I start looking for movements to join with solutions for current problems - places where I can make a meaningful impact right now and create inertia for change. 
  • I stopped kicking the recycling bin.

So, while many people believe they can’t accomplish anything because they’re only one person, I’m here to tell them that’s wrong. If we believe we can change and begin making conscientious decisions about how we live, spend money, and plan for the future, nothing is impossible.

Think about it this way: the plastics industry needs us to buy its products to continue thriving. The more we buy, the more power the industry has to dump tons of its debris into our oceans and landfills. Thus, my first plan of action was to cut plastics out of my life as much as possible, starting with the products I used the most. If one individual here and another there did the same thing, imagine the impact on our environment and economy. 

Let's win this battle

For all of these reasons, I am also proud to work with Mananalu because of what we stand for.  That is, a wave of change that is coming when we decide to take a stand against something we know is wrong.    

Well, guess what. There has already been a major impact, so the plastics industry is getting nervous. People are more educated about environmental issues than ever before, and that means we’re no longer buying lies. Someday, we’ll tell our children how we fought Goliath to save our oceans. 

Are you with us? 

If so, shop Mananalu water here


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