The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Polluted

People across the globe have gotten accustomed to the all-too-easy convenience of single-use, disposable items. Plastic straws, bottles, plates, bowls, bags, cups, forks, spoons, knives, Styrofoam containers, foil wrapping, cling film, nylon netting, boxes, cartons, balloons, razors, toothbrushes, toys, cell phone cases, headphones, candy and chip wrappers, the list goes on and on. Plastic was originally created to be durable and everlasting, but 33% of plastic products are used just once. Globally the creation and use of plastics is becoming a BIG problem. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Worldwide it is estimated that we use and discard 1 trillion plastic bags yearly. That’s about 142 per person a year. In the US the average is about 300 plastic bags per person a year. What’s your average?
  2. The average use life of a plastic bag is just 12 minutes! Whereas a reusable, cloth or even recycled heavy-duty plastic bag can last for years.
  3. We are throwing 5 trillion pieces of plastic into the oceans every year; the equivalent of a garbage truck pouring all its waste into the ocean every minute, continually. Recent studies say that the figure will change to 2 trucks a minute by 2050, some say sooner.
  4. By 2050, it is also anticipated that the amount of plastic waste will outweigh the amount of fish in the sea. Imagine what issues fishermen will face… or our health if we continue to eat seafood.
  5. Entanglement and ingestion of plastics kills over 100,000 sea turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks and other marine life a year (at least 54 of which are endangered species). On top of that 1,000,000 seabirds die yearly from ocean pollution and the ingestion of plastics.
  6. Only 8% of 30 million tons of plastic waste in the US get recycled (the worldwide average is just 5%). Furthermore, plastics can only be recycled one or two times before becoming unusable; inevitably, all plastics will end up in a landfill or the sea.
  7. When plastic does degrade, it is still present in microscopic forms called microplastics. In some parts of the ocean these microplastics already outnumber plankton, meaning even the primary level of the oceanic food chains are being contaminated.
  8. The chemical composition of microplastics means they repel water and are attracted to other additives and toxins (such as the infamous BPA). In the body, these toxins can cause hormone imbalances and an array of problems for humans and animals alike. In a study by the Center for Disease Control, 92% of people tested positive for BPAs and other plastics in their blood.
  9. Plastic uses valuable limited natural resources, such as oil. For example: plastic bottle production in the US uses 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel over a million cars for the year.
  10. Most importantly PLASTIC NEVER GOES AWAY! For decades now plastic waste has been piling up on the oceans, waterways, and coastlines; contaminating both freshwater and marine water resources. Every piece of plastic, unless incinerated or sent to space, still exists on the planet in some form. And every year we produce more of it… in the past 10 years more plastic has been made than in the entire century before it.

The good news is that there are two things that people can do to help combat all these problems:

  1. Stop contributing to the pollution. Refuse single-use items; plastic straws, bottles, bags, silverware, takeaway containers, etc. and start rethinking your everyday purchases. Are there bulk alternatives to your grains and cereals? Can you bring a reusable mug to your favorite coffee place instead of accepting another disposable one? Creating less waste is the first step to giving our environment a fighting chance. Explore the menu bar for ways in which you can reduce your waste output every day!
  2. Start cleaning up the pollution. Whether it was your mess or not, everyone can help tackle the problem! Make a habit of conducting your own mini-cleanups. At the end of any outdoor event whether at the beach, the park, or the mountains, spend some time picking up trash. Set a personal goal, 20 pieces, a 50m radius or a 2 minute clean; make it a habit and include your friends and family! The more hands the better 🙂