Technology | Plastic pollution | Entrepreneur
Reading time: 4 minutes
Text by Rachel Labbe-Bellas
Online July 20th 2019
Plastic pollution is a global emergency. Everywhere we look, there is plastic waste. Rachel Labbe-Bellas defines herself as a marine ecologist. She paints a picture of the situation, but also proposes solutions that she puts into practice, among others, with The Green Stop.
Changing the world one bottle at a time
Plastic Pollution is a global emergency. Everywhere you look, there is trash and chances are that it’s visible, and not neatly tucked away in a trash bin. There are an averaged of 8M metric tons entering our waterways each year. Plastic production is not slowing down. In fact, it is on the up-rise: production of virgin plastic is expected to increase by 40% by the end of the next decade. What is most important for us to focus on about the plastic pollution crisis is that most of this pollution comes from single-use plastic items which reflects our quick consumerism/on-the-go lifestyle that has become primarily disposable. And finally, what is clear is that we have proof that there is no such thing as “throwing it away”. Out of sight, out of mind is no longer our reality.
Do you suffer from ecoanxiety?
There has never been a greater time to have all access to data, information, news, images, etc. We are bombarded with images of plastic pollution covering our planet that it is easy to feel helpless and like no matter how much we try as individuals, that anything will make a difference. This is commonly known as environmental depression. However, falling into this trap will only do more damage.
An average shopper in the US uses 500 plastic bags per year. If you stop to reflect of your daily use and add it up, you will see how much you can really reduce and it doesn’t have to be difficult or costly. Now, what is so important about reducing plastic water bottles?
What is the most common plastic rubish?
One of the largest sources of plastic waste is single-use water bottles. The Council of Canadians quotes a Toronto Sun article stating as few as 50% of the water bottles used by Torontonians are ever recycled. This equates to some 65 million empty plastic water bottles per year making their way to landfills as waste. In some Canadian communities, the percentage of water bottles not being recycled is as high as 80%. Canadian landfills simply cannot deal with the amount of waste created by just this one form of plastic waste – the single-use water bottle.
Shifting our focus to the creation and transportation of bottled water and the numbers only demonstrate more bad news. The Bow Valley Keeper, a citizens’ group in Alberta estimates “the manufacturing and transport of a one-kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumes 26.88 kilograms of water (7.1 gallons), 0.849 kilograms of fossil fuel (one litre or 0.26 gal), and emits 562 grams of greenhouse gases (1.2 pounds).”
Jurisdictions around the world struggle with the issue of providing safe, clean drinking water to their citizens. The public water fountain has minimal visibility and can often have a bad reputation in terms of hygiene, resulting in many people avoiding them. Conferences, festivals and events equally deal with the issue of providing attendees with access to water without creating huge volumes of plastic waste. Increasingly there is a move to lessen the impact of simply providing water to people in our towns, cities, regions and at the events we attend. Jurisdictions everywhere along with festivals, concerts and events are all realizing the benefits of alternative water solutions that don’t generate plastic waste or resort to recycling.
« Peu importe ce que les gens vous disent, les mots et les idées peuvent changer le monde »
- Robin Williams
Acting on individuals and collectivity
It is important to refuse single-use, but it is more important to prevent running into these situations by setting an example and coming prepared. Pack a few utensils in your bag, bring a straw or foldable cup out with you. If you have your own, you don’t even have to worry. We need to shift our focus beyond individuals only though and come together to support our beliefs and encourage changes at municipal, statewide, national, and even global levels.
The United Nation’s plastic pollution campaign called #BeatPlasticPollution, features a world map of all the countries that have a levy or a ban for single-use plastic items.
Since plastic waste is such a ubiquitous material, and once it is lost on our streets, riverbeds or laying under the sun, there is no way to track where it came from, leaving no country or manufacturer responsible. Plastic know no borders, making it a global problem. If it’s not causing damage in your city or coastal town today, chances are it will appear in some shape or form (nano, micro, or macro-plastic) one day. Therefore, coming together and focusing more upstream where plastic is produced or consumed of (ie. on land and in cities) can help better mitigate the problems downstream. Some examples of upstream solutions include policy & regulation such as bans, extended producer responsibility, circular economy and source reduction.
« The Green Stop » or working upstream
Our company’s mission is to reduce single-use plastic pollution in outdoor spaces – starting with water bottles. We are advocating for source reduction, and when bans do come into place, people have alternative solutions for drinking water. We are also serving as an environmental awareness platform, sharing the space with partners and collaborators who want to support messaging about reduction, and who want to help make their outdoor space in a festival, sporting event, park, or city – a greener and cleaner place.
Rachel founded The Green Stop a refill station, a one-stop shop for your on-the-go needs in outdoor spaces. The most important refill need to start with is water. Our stations will offer fresh, clean and easily accessible water using readily accessible tap water that does not require any form of pre-treatment. Green Stop water stations are sustainable indoor/outdoor water stations that provide people with the choice to do the right thing. Our water stations will also build environmental awareness by reducing plastic waste, being conscious of water waste, and thus protecting nature. Future station add-ons will include more eco-friendly services such as dispensable sunscreen and selling reusable bottles and cutlery inside a vending unit. Rachel is finishing her crowdfunfing with La Ruche at the end of this month!
Our solution will launch this summer and use the numerous summer festival landscape as a testing market. Our multi-tap features and unique shape and form allows us to be quicker, more effective for line-ups and more inspirational for educational awareness than other existing water refill stations. Stay tuned for us at big events local like Osheaga!
The Green Stop sera lancée cet été et utilisera les nombreux festivals d’été comme marché d’essai. Les fonctionnalités de robinets multiples et le design unique nous permettent d'être plus rapides, plus efficaces pour les files d'attente et plus stimulants en terme de sensibilisation que d'autres stations de remplissage d'eau existantes. Restez à l'affût lors de grands événements comme celui d’Osheaga à Montréal.
L'entreprise sert également de plate-forme de sensibilisation à l'environnement, partageant l'espace avec des partenaires et des collaborateurs qui souhaitent soutenir les messages relatifs à la réduction de l’utilisation du plastique et qui souhaitent contribuer à rendre leur espace extérieur soit dans un festival, un événement sportif, un parc ou une ville, plus propre et plus écologique.
Confidence and action : for a cleaner future
I am excited about the future since I know that my generation and younger ones (20’s and under) have realized that change is required and leading the way into building a greener future. I have seen hundreds of companies and individuals start transitioning on the path to a cleaner and greener future. It’s not an overnight innovation, it’s a social movement – that has long-term benefits for all of us and can give the planet time to recover and heal.
Support Rachel in her
withThe Green Stop
Entrepreneur / Marine Ecologist
Founder of The Green Stop, Rachel is a Marine Ecologist and has a BSc. in Biology from McGill University and a MSc. in Ecology from UFSC in Brazil. The project was adapted to help reduce single-use plastics at outdoor urban areas like festivals. Rachel is currently completing a pre-seed incubator program with Silicon Valley’s Founder Institute cohort in Montreal, and is working with a start-up hub, MTLab. Her company is part of Quebec’s EcoTech CleanTech Cluster and was also nominated into the top 50 projects of a city-wide initiative called #JeFaisMtl.