Exclusive Interview With Greenpeace On Plastic Pollution

Photo taken by Oceanic Imagery Publications

Photo taken by Oceanic Imagery Publications

1. Name?
My name is Perry Wheeler.

2. Where are you from?
I am from Baltimore, MD.

3. What is your role in Greenpeace and why did you decide to join this organization?
I am a Senior Communications Specialist for Greenpeace USA. I work on our oceans campaign, particularly around addressing the plastic pollution crisis. I decided to work for Greenpeace because I am passionate about environmental justice and believe that for true change, we need to take on corporate power. Greenpeace is an independent organization, meaning we don't take corporate money and can speak truth to power. 

Photo taken by Greenpeace

Photo taken by Greenpeace

4. Why is it so crucial that we stop using/ban single-use plastic?
Single-use plastic is everywhere. Plastics have been found in the deepest point in the ocean, in remote locations like the Antarctic, and even in our air, salt, seafood, and tap water. This is a crisis that needs immediate attention from the world's largest corporations that continue to rely on throwaway materials. Every minute of every day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans, jeopardizing marine animals and communities around the world. 

5. What is plastic pollution, and has plastic pollution improved/worsened over the past few years?
Plastic pollution is getting worse as companies produce more of it. Unfortunately, out of all the plastic ever created, only 9 percent has been recycled. While recycling remains important, we know now that we cannot recycle our way out of this crisis. Plastic pollution isn't just the litter we see on beaches either. The entire lifecycle of plastic is polluting, from extraction to disposal. We should not be creating a material that is meant to be used for a few moments that exists in our world for lifetimes. 

Photo taken by Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Photo taken by Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

6. What are five sustainable and reusable alternatives to five single-use items?
There are numerous alternatives to single-use plastics on the market, and it is of course important that we do our best to embrace sustainable alternatives and avoid plastics in stores whenever possible. Those items include reusable bags for produce, reusable bags to carry groceries, reusable water bottles, reusable cutlery, and reusable straws. However, the single most important thing an individual can do is to put pressure on corporations to reduce the plastic they churn out on a daily basis. For a long time we've been told that it's our responsibility to just recycle better or carry a reusable bag, but that will never be enough. Our collective pressure is already moving this issue in a better direction. 

7. What can one do if they are really passionate about recycling and creating less plastic pollution, however their friends/family are uninterested and unwilling to change their behavior? How can we change their habits?
Changing people's habits takes time and constant reminders about the impacts of that plastic pollution -- that it impacts marine animals and communities around the world for lifetimes. Many people understand the issue more when they realize only 9 percent of the plastics ever made have actually been recycle. The entire story we've been told about recycling is a lie. It's imperative that we demand corporate accountability and move the narrative away from individual lifestyle changes alone. We should keep recycling and avoiding plastics, but we are in a world that is built for overconsumption and convenience. We need to push for game-changing systemic changes. 

Photo taken by Will Rose / Greenpeace

Photo taken by Will Rose / Greenpeace

8. Have any big corporations such as supermarkets responded to this pressing issue?
Greenpeace activists recently applied pressure to Trader Joe's nationwide, and we've since seen the company move to eliminate certain throwaway plastics from their stores. We are applying the same pressure to fast moving consumer goods companies and other retailers around the country. Foodservice giants Sodexo and Aramark have also taken comprehensive steps to move away from single-use plastics. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/trader-joes-responds-to-customer-calls-to-phase-out-single-use-plastics/

9. What can the readers to do be more involved in fighting single-use plastic and plastic pollution?
Greenpeace has put together a toolkit that readers can use to take action in their own communities. It's important that we have conversations with the restaurants we frequent, the grocery stores we shop at, and with our local elected officials, urging them to move away from single-use plastics. We should also hold big brands accountable for their plastic pollution. If we conduct cleanups, we should add a brand audit to it and name the worst polluters publicly. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaign-updates/a-million-acts-of-blue-toolkit/

10. What is your motto in life?
My motto in life is to leave it better than I found it. We all have a role to play in turning the tide on single-use plastics, and I hope to encourage others to speak up and demand better as well. 

Photo taken by Greenpeace

Photo taken by Greenpeace

11. Website and Instagram info?
Our website is www.greenpeace.org and our Instagram is @GreenpeaceUSA

Interview by Alison Hernon, Editor-in-Chief, PhotoBook Magazine.