#BeatPlasticPollution World Environment Day 2018
Plastic is everywhere in our daily lives and that is a huge problem. Look around and you’ll find it. In your bathroom, in your kitchen, at your school or office, in hospitals, shops, cars, or even in your garden. Yes, in your flower pots for example.
It’s omnipresent in things and objects we use everyday that we don’t even notice. It’s in our tea bags, in our clothes, in our personal care products, in children’s toys, in our mobile phones, in food wrappers, etc. It has become so essential in our lives that if you think about it, it’s hard to imagine our life without plastics.
Sadly, plastic is also omnipresent in our environment. It has been found in the deepest part of the ocean, trapped in Arctic sea ice, inside a whale’s stomach, in tap water, floating in rivers and huge patches in the ocean, and most probably it is already present in our food chain.
How much proof then, do we need to realize that we have become so dependent on plastics that we are drowning our ourselves and the planet in them? What can we do to end this toxic addiction that is polluting our environment, affecting our wildlife and damaging our own health?
Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2012. Photo by Enny Nuraheni/Reuters
The big problem: lots of single-use plastic and almost no recycling.
Globally every year around 300 million tons of plastic is produced. Some estimate that is roughly the equivalent to the weight of the entire world population! Half of it, designed to be used only once and then thrown away. Food trays, bottles, straws, shopping bags, cutlery, cups, sanitary products, packaging film, you name it. Just look around and you’ll find it. In fact, the abuse of single-use plastic has become so excessive that individuals around the world are posting in social media photos of ridiculous packaging to demand corporations and retailers to reduce this type of throwaway plastic.
At the same time the production of more durable plastics has diminish and the trend has been towards plastics that are meant to be thrown away after a single use. This, combined with almost no recycling, and you have the ecological disaster we are facing.
How did this happened?
Although plastics have only been massed produced for the last 60 years our consumption has grown exponentially. By the 1990s plastic waste generation and similarly plastic production, more than tripled in just 20 years. At the same time the recycle rate of plastic has been extremely low. In fact just 9% of all plastic waste EVER produced has been recycled! The other 12% has been incinerated, while the rest 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment, whether a river, the sea, or on land.
And precisely because of the characteristics that have made plastic such a convenient and widely use material (durability and versatility), are the same reasons why every single piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists today. Surely it’s not the original same shape, size or color but it is certainly there. Plastics are so durable and hard to biodegrade that they can persist in the environment for decades or even centuries!
Source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
An ocean of plastic
You must have seen in social media pictures and videos that show how drastically polluted with plastics our seas and oceans are. Worldwide, plastics make-up the most common type of marine litter found in the ocean. In fact, plastic has become an inherent part of the marine environment. Annually it has been estimated that around 8 million tons of plastics end up there, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute! As such it’s not hard to imagine the predicted scenario that by 2050, the ocean will have more plastics than fish.
Almost all plastic found in the ocean is originated in-land and in coastal regions but because of poor waste management practices it ends carried by rivers or blown by air into the sea. Once in the ocean, plastics accumulate with other types of marine debris in huge floating patches like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or wash up on the coasts, while light resistant plastics break down into smaller pieces called microplastics that continue to float, sink into the ocean floor or get ingested by marine animals.
Beat Plastic Pollution – World Environment Day
The huge dimension of the plastic pollution crisis has reached a tipping point in public awareness. Individuals and organizations worldwide are calling for action to stop plastic pollution. Corporations, businesses and governments are starting to take steps to tackle the issue, by banning certain items like plastic bags or by substituting plastics with reusable, recyclable, or compostable materials.
All this is a good sign but the truth is that we need to do more. Each of us has to do more to “Beat Plastic Pollution”, as the chosen theme for World Environment Day 2018 says.
There are so many things we can do to help end plastic pollution and not just today but everyday. Join the worldwide movement and start taking concrete steps to #BeatPlasticPollution.
Get some inspiration with these simple ideas and remember to share yours and spread the word.
- Carry your own reusable water bottle or coffee mug
- Bring your own shopping bag to the supermarket
- Don’t use or buy products with microbeads – check for Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and/or Nylon (PA).
- Pick up any plastic you see the next time you go for a walk
- Participate in community clean-up events
- Never flush any kind of plastic down the toilet
- Choose package-free foods or with biodegradable packaging
- Switch liquid soap with soap bars
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