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Every April 22, over a billion people around the world celebrate Earth Day by participating in neighborhood clean-up activities and environmental teach-ins. The planet's largest civic event began in 1970 when twenty million Americans poured out onto the streets to urge lawmakers to take action to protect the environment before it was too late. Now boasting over 50,000 partners in 195 countries, the Earth Day Network (EDN) has led to the establishment of numerous environmental policies, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
Earth Day 2021 is dedicated to restoring the world's ecosystems in order to combat what is now being called a "climate emergency." EarthDay.org officials maintain that we need to reduce our impact on the planet and find ways to repair the damage we have already done. “This Earth Day, we have an important opportunity to challenge our leaders to commit to climate action on a global scale,” Kathleen Rogers, president of EarthDay.org, told Vogue. “We are at the edge of a cliff — if we don’t act now to reduce carbon emissions, there will be no way back.”
While stricter government legislation may take some time, here are a few companies that are stepping up to the challenge with green technologies and innovative thinking.
Thermal Compaction Group
Single-use personal protective equipment (PPE), like masks and gowns, used to protect medical first responders and healthcare workers from the coronavirus has led to an exponential rise in plastic waste worldwide. Researchers estimate that over a billion single-use disposable masks ended up in landfills in 2020 — and that number is just for the United Kingdom.
Now, UK-based Thermal Compaction Group has devised special machines that compact PPE waste into meter-long plastic blocks, which can be used to create a range of products, including school chairs and toolboxes. Matt Rapson, the firm's environmental director, said: "We are taking what is designated as single-use plastic out of what is a very expensive waste stream for the NHS (National Health Service), reclaiming the plastics and engineering it back into an inert source of polypropylene which is then reused into multiple products."
The machines, currently being tested at five hospitals across the UK, will soon be deployed to health centers across the country.
On April 15, 2021, California-based toymaker Mattel declared that by 2030, its entire collection of Matchbox die-cast cars, playsets, and packaging will be made using 100 percent recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastic. The announcement was accompanied by the release of a Matchbox Tesla Roadster, the company's first die-cast vehicle made from 99 percent recycled materials. The "green" toy will be available in stores starting 2022.
Apple Inc. announced a $200 million carbon removal initiative on April 15, 2021. Launched in partnership with Conservation International and Goldman Sachs, it aims to make investments in forestry projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The company believes its efforts will help remove at least 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — equivalent to the amount of fuel used by over 200,000 passenger vehicles — annually. The undertaking is the first step towards Apple's ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral across its entire value chain by 2030. The company plans to directly eliminate 75 percent of emissions from its supply chain and products by 2030 and hopes that the carbon removal initiative will help address the remaining 25 percent.
Though the efforts by these companies and others with similar initiatives, will go a long way in helping the environment, individuals have to do their part as well. As Rogers succinctly puts it, "It is up to each and every one of us to "Restore Our Earth," not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. A healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity."
So this Earth Day, pledge to do everything you can to reduce your impact on the planet. Even small actions such as switching off lights and devices when not in use, biking to school instead of driving, and using reusable water bottles and lunch boxes can make a big difference.
Happy Earth Day!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Resources: mattel.com, apple.com, terracycle.com,tcgsolutions.co.uk