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July 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 33, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Plastic Packaging and the Diving Industry

do the big manufacturers care enough?

from the July, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Picture by Saeed RashidAlarmed at the vast amount of single-use plastic used to package new diving equipment, Undercurrent wrote to the major diving equipment manufacturers including AP Diving, Aqualung, Cressi, Halcyon, Huish, Mares, Scubapro, Seac, and TUSA to ask them if they had plans to reduce the excessive the amount of plastic packaging.

We do know that a least two small British manufacturers are taking the lead. Fourth Element is ramping up with biodegradable packaging. And AP Diving's operations manager, David Jackson, says their "larger products, such as rebreathers and BCDs, already have a reusable storage/shipping container or just a shipping box, and no plastic wrapping. Small products and kits packaged in single-use blister packs or poly bags are being transferred over to biodegradable bags, or in some cases, no packaging at all. There will always be a requirement for environmentally sealed containers, especially for things like sensors, absorbents, filters and oxygen service items."

Eileen Schluter, marketing manager at Johnson Outdoors, told us that Scubapro was tackling the problem. "We do have some sustainable packaging already in place (nonplastic and/or reusable) and plans to eliminate the plastic even more (not only product packaging, but also shipping packaging) . . . I really love this subject and think our industry has a major responsibility, not only to address the issues, but to change our ways."

Discarded plastic from a few new wetsuits

For Mares and SSI, Stefan Michel replied, "We will launch a program in July to our distributors and direct countries in which we kick off an initiative to avoid unnecessary plastic in packaging and move many of our actual packaging solutions towards reusable packaging solutions and cartons with water-based printing. Overarching theme is to reduce 70% of unnecessary plastic, since we are celebrating 70 years of Mares in 2019."

So, there is some movement to reduce excessive plastic problems, but apparently it's an uncomfortable issue to many manufacturers, because several failed to reply to our many requests. We have yet to hear from Aqualung, Cressi, Halcyon, Huish, Seac or TUSA, although Aqualung has promised to get back to us. Does this mean they don't care? Do you care?

Subscriber Michael Buttram (Marietta, GA) suggested, "Perhaps instead of plastic bags, they could package gear in nylon mesh bags, with a note encouraging customers to use them to collect trash they find below the waves."

Europe Steps Up

The Mediterranean is in more trouble than the rest of the world's seas and oceans, thanks to plastic pollution. Only holding one percent of the world's water, it now contains seven percent of all microplastic. Summer tourism increases marine pollution by 40 percent, which includes such items as plastic bags and straws and wet wipes. Ghost fishing nets, an ever-present danger to fish and divers, are being tracked down and removed by teams from organizations such as Healthy Seas and Ghost Fishing, supported by Cousteau Divers.

While single-use plastics aren't on the radar of the American government -- sadly, not much in the way of environmental preservation is these days -- the European Union has proposed an outright ban for member nations.

What You Can Do

As a diver, reject single-use plastic wherever you come across it. Leave unnecessary plastic wrappers at your dive store and tell them why. At resorts and on liveaboards, refuse plastic drinking straws, single-use plastic and Styrofoam cups and water bottles. Reuse plastic cutlery. Reject soap wrapped in plastic and avoid Saran food wrap. And you can take endless other actions. You know the problem. Become part of the solution.

Many liveaboards and dive resorts are eliminating single-use plastic because they see the results of its misuse first-hand. Thank them for it and note what they have done -- or have not done -- when you file your next reader report.

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