On a Mission for the Future, An interview with Henrik Beha / Plastic Change
“I am an environmental biologist and combined my education with policy studies. I always worked to safeguard the environment.”
Please, tell us a little about the origin of the Plastic Change Organisation ...
"I am an environmental biologist and combined my education with policy studies. I always worked to safeguard the environment. I worked for Greenpeace as a campaigner.
After many years of campaigning, I decided to go through a visionary process to figure out what was the most needed. NGO and plastic pollution came up.
When sailing the worlds oceans I have seen the rising plastic pollution and thought addressing this specific problem was needed.
When I mentioned the word microplastic five years ago, - no one knew what I was talking about. That has changed and today Plastic Change is a permanent partner nationally in Denmark and globally working as partner in the steering group of the “Break free from Plastic” movement, - and as UN partner having observatory status there."
“By motivating the movement and presenting solutions, we can foresee that we will be able to break the current growing curve of plastic pollution” - Henrik Beha / Plastic Change
How would You define Your mission ? And what focus do You have, when bringing Awareness to Plastic Pollution ?
"Our mission is to document the problem regarding plastic pollution. We transform the knowledge into building a movement, with the power to engage politicians globally, and finally present systemic solutions that can show the way out of the plastic crisis we experience today.
We have now succeeded in raising awareness about plastic pollution globally. A strong public voice is rising right now and we wish to transform that power into real changes. We believe in good examples and that, for instance, a small country like Denmark can contribute significantly to the global need for answers by implementing these solutions on a national scale.
Already today we know that delegations visit Denmark to learn about our wind energy and ecological food production.
This will also be the case regarding the future, on how to phase out plastic from incineration (Incineration : contributes to climate change by sending a lot of CO2 into the air.)
We shall reach this paradigm shift by introducing long term systemic solutions to our use of single use plastic. Already now we export our system and deposit scheme on plastic bottles. All together we focus on solutions and consider the main documentation part and raising awareness done. By motivating the movement and presenting solutions we can foresee that we will be able to break the current growing curve of plastic pollution."
Why did You choose to focus on Ocean Pollution ?
"Oceans are natural sinks of plastic pollution. Water runoff via waterways and surface areas will lead plastic into the oceans. Today we find plastic no matter where we look in the Oceans.
Having said that, the oceans are a symbol, a mirror of our act. We have polluted our oceans, the food-chains, - and we know now that plastic is ending up at our own plates. We eat and shit plastic as a boomerang consequence of our uncontrolled use of plastic. We have introduced and distributed plastic, often packaging and single use, worldvide without any system, or any idea about how to cut the future production and stem the growing tide neither plastic entering our natural systems. We must use the knowledge about ocean pollution to ask ourselves questions on land. How can we reduce production and consumption of plastic in the future and not as predicted produce much more plastic in the future. IF we continue as today, the growing production and consumption will lead to a situation in 2050 where 13% of our carbon budget is used by plastic."
What is Your main focus in the business of Plastic Pollution ?
"Our business is very much focused at individual partners and sponsorships, but also to a large extent our strategic partnerships. Individuals and sponsoring companies are helping Plastic Change a lot. We see many Plastic Change agent initiatives where ordinary people for example organizes “Ocean Run’s” to collect money for our work. A substantial part of our income also derives from our strategical partnerships. Together with companies like LIDL, Rema1000 and Carlsberg, we develop real solutions to be implemented in our daily lives.
Everything is taken to the policy level."
Does Plastic Change messages, as well as mission, apply to some segments rather than others ? If so, who is Your main target group ?
"Well, we are ocean connected and many sub groups following us are users of the ocean,-
but the overall picture of our target group is the general public.
Many students follow us and use our learning material. Others are the more general public who follow us at social media. Our aim is to engage families and everybody who wants to see a societal change, when it comes to overconsumption and reuse of plastic."
"People who believe that together we can make a change, - a plastic change, by supporting each others actions."
With Whom do You collaborate and why ?
"Our main collaboration happens within the global movement for Plastic Change, the “Break free form Plastic” movement. It’s 1600 organisations worldwide coordinating our strategies to combat Plastic pollution, especially single use plastic, and creating a global momentum in the policy Foras by paving the way, supported by the public movement.Other important partners are experts in the governments, policy makers in the UN, EU and Danish parliament. Also larger progressive industries are becoming our partners."
What do You hope to achieve ?
"We need change at the biggest scale to create a sustainable production and use of plastic in the future. We must bend the curve of plastic pollution of our nature and we will only achieve this, if we consume and produce less plastic in the future. We produce 1 million plastic bottles every minute and the production only seems to be growing. Changing our single use culture into a more sustainable culture where we use products again and again and stop using single use plastic is crucial and the tipping point for turning the tide on plastic is now. Our ecosystems can’t afford more microplastic. Our climate can’t afford more greenhouse gasses from burning plastic. Now is the time."
Does Your work intend to enhance conscious consuming ? If so, - how ?
"Conscious consuming has a great policy power. Every single one of us can make a difference! When we, for instance, ask questions to our supermarkets, our municipalities, our local or national politicians, and ask “why do we need all that plastic wrapping and all these plastic bags?” we contibute to change. The movement is growing and asking for the needed changes. We are here to make those changes systemic and instrumental. To make them work in the right direction and not for example create another problem while we for instance substitute with a lot of single use paper solutions, - which would create another heavy impact on our ecosystems."
How do You experience peoples reaction to Your work and efforts ?
"Truly positive. We receive so much positive interest, so many positive questions from the public, from all segments of our society. Media is sticking seriously to the agenda, not leaving us behind and in between we also win some great prizes and nominations."
Are You optimistic about the future of the Ocean ?
“Yes and no. I am the father of three sons.
I am a part of the generations that have managed to pollute our oceans generally with plastic in only sixty years! And I am now experiencing Plastic Change being a part of the fastest rising environmental movement, maybe ever."
"The issue of plastic pollution is on everybody's lips, - and I am, we are, pretty proud of being a part of this."
"With this success comes a huge responsibility to turn the power of the movement into real politics, as we have just seen in the EU Single Use Plastic Directive, that will lead to comprehensive reductions of plastic in our oceans and set the standard globally.”
What advise do You wish to give the readers of Oceans Daily Magazine ?
“Join us in the fight against plastic pollution and activate Your inner activist to support the movement.
Small steps do create great societal changes.
Always bring Your personal reusable water bottle and shopping bag.
Start asking Yourself and Your surroundings questions, - like : “Do I really need this plastic bag?” and maybe in the grocery store or the supermarket, ask why there is so much wrapping around Your products. Ask Your local supplier to reduce the footprint of plastic. By tapping in and making personal statements we will start those small rings in the water that will create the bigger waves in the future.”
Interview conducted by Blue Reporter, Naja Bertolt Jensen