As pressures on the coastal ecosystems continue to mount due to the growing problem of poor plastic disposal, there is a need for frameworks that can be used in conceptualizing the complex environmental and sustainability challenges. The Social-Ecological System (SES) framework developed by Elinor Ostrom (2009) is one such approach that has been adopted in efforts to try and manage the growing problem of plastic waste in the environment. The effects of plastics are hazardous to the environment and living beings, whereby in some cases, the impact may be long-lasting. The SES approach is particularly important for this study as it helps in articulating and structuring the challenges towards the development of policies that promote sustainability (Ostrom, 2011).
Examine the issue of plastics using the SES framework and to evaluate how governance of plastics can be improved through better policies that encourage and promote sustainability.
The use of plastics in society has been beneficial at a societal and economic level. However, the consequences of plastics wastes bring just as much a challenge as the opportunities that its use presents. The consequences of plastics range from economic, environmental and societal implications. The chemical ingredients of plastics are toxic chemicals, for example, DDT, BPA, and Phthalates can result in genetic changes and cause cancer in humans as well as other living organisms (Asante-Duah, 2017). The means of disposing plastics has been a challenge, and different stakeholders have put in efforts to determine the best options for disposal and one that would result in the least environmental? Health? consequences . So far, the preferred mode of disposal remains to be land or the soil . It has been challenging to control the entry points of plastics into the market and consequently into waste disposal sites. It calls for global and local governance to join hands and create responsive interventions that would control the littering hazard caused by plastics (Vince and Hardesty, 2017). Plastics are harmful in an extensive manner since they can litter all parts of the environment including land, water and even cause air pollution as well as inflict substantial harm to the open layer of the atmosphere, which results in global warming (Lebreton et al., 2017). Further, it is not possible to completely decompose plastic due to its polyethylene chemical structure.
In efforts to guard the effects that result from the use of plastics, most states in the US have employed measures and strategies that govern the production as well as the use of plastic products. Non-governmental organizations that work for the welfare of the people and environmental organizations realize the impact that plastics have on the environment. Therefore, these organizations, in collaboration with government, focus on controlling the use of plastic. Such organizations educate the public on the use of eco-friendly products and advocate for the eradication of plastics from the face of the earth. Some of the measures include the use of plastic bags in a limited manner, introducing alternative means and enacting legislation that governs the use of plastics. For instance, plastics that have already been produced should be recycled continuously while also encouraging the use of eco-friendly products and banning the production of plastic bags (Jambeck et al., 2015).
However, one of the issues that still hinder proper governance of plastics is the status of collective actors, which include agencies and government bodies that are charged with the control of plastic waste management systems. Vogt et al. (2015) state that although actors in an SES framework maybe collective entities, in most cases they are usually individual agents that act on behalf of such organizations. The norms that different bound organizations should be fully implemented and supported to oversee accountability in the defiant businesses on plastic use. This, in turn, makes the responsibilities of each organization in the governance system much easier to understand and evaluate its response to the implemented policy on the plastic ban. McGinnis and Ostrom (2014) argue that the rules and regulations that define the responsibilities of involved organizations and their agents should be considered as properties of the governance system.
The governance of plastics in the society is a crucial aspect given that the use and disposal of these synthetic products pose potential effect to the users, the society, and the future generations. However, pollution of the environment by plastic wastes is a difficult reinstatement and a governance problem. Like most ecological challenges, plastic contamination is trans-boundary, and the responsive governance proposals are required to be just as complex. It is ideally not likely that intervention programs by the government and private contributors will restore the environmental condition that was there before the pollution. Efforts for plastic governance present an example of the challenges in environmental restoration. Successful governance and environmental advocacy would, however, help to improve the environmental situation and provide means that govern the effective use of plastics. The governance of plastic use is only possible if the society can adopt a holistic approach that integrates all stakeholders and utilizes scientific expertise, market-based strategies and community participation (Lebreton et al., 2017). This is why Ostrom’s SES framework is very important in this context since it geared towards the attainment of ecological sustainability. This framework is , particularly important as it can offer analysts, ecologists, policymakers and concerned parties with the foundation for diagnosing specific issues that contribute to the growing problem of plastic wastes in US water bodies that affect marine life and the general population (Vogt et al., 2015). It calls for the society to be equipped with necessary knowledge provoking the public to reduce the use of plastics while implementing more responsive governance strategies to curb the problem. Subramanian (2000) states that the most important aspect of the integrated plastic waste management approach is to minimize the amount of plastics used as well as employing effective plastic waste management policies.
In conclusion, there is a need to conduct more research that incorporates SES framework in the field of plastics pollution and its governance. The issue of plastics affects all people in the society, and since everyone uses it, it is also easier to control the problem. Plastics cannot be decomposed, and the effects caused by these synthetic products to the environment are extreme thus contributing greatly to severe problems with pollution. However, if properly implemented, the SES framework can address the problems caused by plastics and maintain a clean environment .
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