EVERY 30 SECONDS, one person dies due to plastic pollution! Yes, it’s true. A report published by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Institute of Development Studies finds that 400,000 to one million people in the developing world are dying every year as a result of mismanaged waste including plastic. Do we have a chance to save our planet?
Since 2000, the plastics industry has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined. In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, production reached 396 million metric tons. That is equivalent to 53 kilograms of plastic for each person on the planet! If current production increases by 40%, 2030 will be the beginning of the end for us and our planet…
Every minute, every single day, the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans. In the name of profit and convenience, corporations are literally choking our planet with a substance that does not just “go away” when we toss it into a bin. There are no easy solutions, but it is critical to know what the real cost of plastic is and how we can help our planet survive and be a better place for future generations.
PLASTIC & CLIMATE
Plastic production and pollution are fuelling climate change. The plastic production process already has a carbon footprint larger than the UK’s. If growth in production continues at the current rate, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption. The burning of plastic as a waste disposal method is also a significant contributor to emissions. Across the world, a staggering three billion people have no access to proper waste management. Plastic waste is dumped and often openly burned, resulting in the release of toxic chemicals and increased air pollution.
PLASTIC & HEALTH
The main enemy to our health is the micro plastic. According to the international classification, this category includes any plastic particle less than five mm in length.
The main sources of micro plastic are synthetic clothes, tires, road markings, cosmetic and cleaning products, tea bags, gums and diapers. In September 2017, a study of tap water samples from 14 countries was commissioned by the Association of Journalists Orb Media. The main conclusion – treatment facilities are not able to hold small pieces of plastic; more than 80% of the samples were positive (72% in Western Europe, 94% in the United States). Soon after that study, German scientists discovered micro plastics in honey and beer, and in Korea, micro plastics were found in table salt. The British went even further saying that every day, a person swallows about a hundred synthetic fibers along with household dust. That means, no matter what we do, we will not be able to avoid micro plastic.
How dangerous is this? The Austrian Society of Gastroenterology claimed that “eating” micro plastic is associated with the increasing incidence of colon and blood cancers. And many scientists consider that use of plastic products leads to ingestion and/or inhalation of large amounts of both micro plastic particles as well as hundreds of toxic substances with carcinogenic, abnormal developmental, or endocrine disrupting properties.
WAKE UP CALL
A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law is very disappointing. The authors identified four thousand potentially dangerous chemical compounds, of which one thousand were analyzed in detail and 148 were identified as very dangerous.
It may take decades to trace the long-term effect of hundreds of synthetic composites. And how much plastic will be thrown away during this time? Even without research, it is clear that the plastic problem is becoming a challenge to our “planet’s health” and we should all be motivated to help solve it!
8 WAYS TO REDUCE PLASTIC
Bring your own shopping bag
Carry a reusable water bottle
Say “No” to disposable straws & cutlery
Choose products made from recycled materials
Purchase second hand instead of buying new
Avoid plastic wrap and zip lock bags
Never release balloons into the air
Have a home cooked meal
Some key facts about plastic pollution:
- Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.
- Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.
- Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the world, from busy tourist beaches to uninhabited, tropical islands.
- 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and one million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
- Every year, about eight million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.
- Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible, and durable. But many of these additives can extend the life of products if they become litter, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.
- The service life of a plastic bag is 12 minutes, and it can take more than 400 years to completely decompose.