No one says it better than National Geographic: “Approximately nine million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year—the equivalent of five plastic grocery bags stuffed with plastic trash on every foot of coastline around the world. Plastic pollution in the ocean has dire implications for all marine life as well as humans, indeed our entire planet.”
Plastic Sticks Around
Since the 1950s the production of plastic has skyrocketed as has plastic pollution. The problem is that plastic is so flexible, so convenient, and so durable that it never goes away. It just breaks down into smaller, and smaller pieces, and eventually into microplastics and microfibers. Plastic created in the 1950s and yesterday will be with us for decades, if not centuries.
Plastic Flies with the Wind
Only about a third of all plastic gets recycled and made into another product. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, “Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year; only 8 percent of it gets recycled.” That means that most of the rest becomes litter. Why? Because so much of it is lightweight it blows off collection trucks, picnic tables, and beach mats and ends up, ultimately in our streams, rivers, Chesapeake Bay, and oceans. Combine that with the fact that is breaks down into tiny pieces and it’s a perfect storm of toxic litter that is ugly and dangerous.
Plastic is Made from Fossil Fuels That Are So Yesterday
Given the impact of Climate Change on all life on Earth, we should be producing less fossil fuel, not more. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, “The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) just launched an ongoing investigative series, Fueling Plastics, examining the deep linkages between the fossil fuels and plastics industries and the products they produce, and exposing how the U.S. shale gas boom fuels a massive buildout of plastics infrastructure in the United States and beyond. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and the release of air pollutants and toxic substances from petrochemical facilities across the Gulf region, these reports shed new light on the harmful impacts of fossil fuels at every stage of their lifecycle.” Read more
Plastic has Other Nasty Friends
Because of its very nature, plastic bonds with other toxic chemicals like PVCs, fire retardants, lubricants, and fuels. So when plastic bits break up on land and in our waterways, they become poison pills for wildlife that mistake them for food.
Plastic Harms Animals and People
Abandoned fishing nets, straws, six-pack rings, plastic bags… all of these can mean a slow, agonizing death for fish, turtles, birds and other animals that eat or become entangled in plastic. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1. This means that gentle giants like whales who feed on plankton will soon go hungry or starve. Scientists have found plastic in the stomachs of countless birds and marine life. Microplastic is making its way up the food chain… all the way up to us. And, the chemicals that plastics leach out over time or when exposed to heat (don’t ever microwave food in plastic) are regularly found in human tissue and blood. A connection can be made to cancer, immune system problems, birth defects, and more. Read more
Plastic Pollution is Bad for the Economy
Where there is visible litter or polluted waterways, tourism suffers, property values drop, and we all suffer.
But... we can all reduce our plastic footprint. It just takes thought and changing a few habits. Read more