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From the land to the sea our Earth is becoming a Plastic Planet. Most of the plastic waste in the United Kingdom doesn't actually end up in our oceans, but a lot is disposed of in our environment, being burned or buried in landfill sites. Around 79% of the plastic waste ever created is still in our environment. We are leaving a legacy of plastic waste on our planet that will take nearly 50 years for our children to put right according to one published estimate.
Plastic in the oceans – marine litter or marine debris – is a threat to the ocean that has gained some attention in recent years, from media, NGOs, business entrepreneurs as well as policy makers. It is increasingly recognised that the damage to the ocean ecosystems also creates risks to social and economic systems (Oosterhuis et alii 2014, Watkins et alii 2017, Brouwer et alii 2017). There is an urgent need for a wide range of policies to keep plastic and its value in the economy and out of the ocean and the responses so far are far from what will be required. The new political focus on the circular economy offers a window of opportunity to encourage upstream measures (eg product design and multiuse products), consumer measures (awareness and pricing to inform purchasing and waste disposal habits) and downstream measures (eg collection and recycling) (ten Brink et alii 2016).
More and more people are recycling but we still only recycle 58% of our plastic bottles – that's a 42% gap.
Plastic bottles are accepted for recycling by 99% of local councils in the
UK. We only recycle 32% of the plastic pots, tubs and trays we buy and these are widely collected for recycling.
One million years from now, geologists exploring our planet’s concrete-coated crust will uncover strange signs of civilisations past. “Look at this,” one will exclaim, cracking open a rock to reveal a thin black disc covered in tiny ridges. “It’s a fossil from the Plasticene age.” Not quite as good as Planet of the Apes, but still the demise of a civilisation.
Our addiction to plastics, combined with a reticence to recycle, means the stuff is already leaving its mark on our planet’s geology. Of the 300 million tonnes of plastics produced annually, about a third is chucked away soon after use. Much is buried in landfill where it will probably remain, but a huge amount ends up in the oceans. “All the plastics that have ever been made are already enough to wrap the whole world in plastic film,” palaeobiologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester, UK, recently told a conference in
Germany. It sounds enough to asphyxiate the planet.
Captain Moore’s research revealed six times more plastic in the area than plankton. It was also discovered that 80 percent of the debris had initially been discarded on land – a finding later confirmed by the
United Nations Environmental Program. Wind blows the plastic through streets and from landfills. It makes its way into rivers, streams and storm drains, then rides the tides and currents out to sea, finally ending up in an ocean gyre. And the trash-vortex Moore discovered isn’t the only one – the planet has six additional major tropical oceanic gyres, all of them swirling with debris.
Moore is the founder of the Algalita Marine Research and Education in Long Beach, California, and currently works there.
Plastic now forms part of our planet’s food chain. The problem is that nothing in the food chain can digest it. Plastic ends up in the bellies of all kinds of sea creatures – from fish, to turtles, to albatrosses. According to the United Nations Environment Program, plastic is killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year. And this is in addition to the deaths by entanglement caused by six-pack rings and discarded synthetic fishing lines and nets. They also clog animals’ throats and digestive tracts, leading to fatal constipation. One wonders what Charles Darwin would have thought of the albatross babies fed bellyfuls of plastic by their albatross parents, who soar out over the vast, polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food for their young. We know by now that every second nature stresses a first nature, which, in effect, deteriorates; the victorious second nature then becomes the first. But are we ready for a plastic planet?
MOBILE AUGUST 2017 - The ‘Age of Plastic’ is coming and if the pollution levels continue to rise, Earth will soon turn into a plastic planet.
The researchers also found that by 2015, humans had produced 6.3 billon tons of plastic waste. Of that total, only 9 percent was recycled; 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current trends continue, Geyer noted, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste — weighing more than 36,000 Empire State Buildings — will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.
The swirling pile of trash in the
Pacific Ocean Gyre is growing at an exponential rate. A recent study has estimated that the mass of the garbage island is four to sixteen times bigger than previously thought, and is now three times the size of
France. Mon dieu!
LINKS & REFERENCE
SINGLE USE PLASTICS - This is just a small sample of the plastic packaging that you will find in retails stores all over the world. A good proportion of this packaging - around 8 millions tons a year, will end up in our oceans, in the gut of the fish we eat, in the stomachs of seabirds and in the intestines of whales and other marine mammals. Copyright photograph © 22-7-17 Cleaner Ocean Foundation Ltd, all rights reserved.
FOAM & BOTTLES - Expanded polystyrene is used to package household electrical goods, while soft drinks and water is sold in PET plastic bottles by the billions every year. The numbers are staggering. It's no wonder then that some of this plastic will end up on our plate in one form or another, potentially as a toxin carrier. Copyright photograph © 22-7-17 Cleaner Ocean Foundation Ltd, all rights reserved. Animals do not recognize polystyrene foam as an artificial material and may even mistake it for food. Polystyrene foam blows in the wind and floats on water, due to its low specific gravity. It can have serious effects on the health of birds or marine animals that swallow significant quantities.
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