By April 8, 2013 10 Comments Read More →

The Convenience of Plastic Is Killing Our Oceans

Flickr - deadfish - Beel at lAlex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

About 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year. In the US alone, about 30+ million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the solid waste system, including various plastic containers, bags and other types of packaging, with only about 10% being recycled.

Plastic, which was once regarded as convenient and versatile, has actually become one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. Over the last 50 years, we’ve increased the amount of plastic waste 12 fold. Typically plastics are made by using non-renewable resources, and most plastics are non-biodegadable, which means they will be around for centuries. The ingredients used to make plastics, such as petrochemical bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), have been linked to a wide range of serious adverse health effects.

“Plastic pollution is a major global phenomenon that has crept up on us over the decades, and it really requires a global and comprehensive solution that includes systemic rethinks about usage and production.” – Doug Woodring, Plastic Disclosure Project (Source: New York Times)

Plastic bags are another concerning issue. Over 1 trillion plastic bags are produced in the world each year. We use them for everything – from carrying groceries, to packing beauty products in our luggage, to storing foods in our refrigerator, and they have made our life much more convenient. Yet, the price for this convenience is astounding. The infographic below, produced by Arte IDEAS, will give you an idea of the impact plastic bags have on the environment:

The impact of plastic has been most detrimental to the world’s waterways. Environmental organizations estimate that about 7 million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans each year, polluting beaches even on islands, killing off precious and rare native species.

…the E.U. commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has said that pollution in the Mediterranean Sea has reached “alarming proportions.” (Source: New York Times)

One of the most harrowing examples the devastation already to the Midway Islands, home of the majestic albatross and one of the most remotest places on earth. 2000 miles from another continent, this little oasis is ground zero for the plastic apocalypse and this once pristine group of islands is now a frightening and gruesomely real sign of how plastics choke the life out of an eco-system.

Once in our seas and oceans, plastics break down info smaller fragments, and as the fragments get smaller, more marine life is able to ingest them and suffer consequences such as illness or death. We also suffer considering that we are contaminating a major food source. “One study found that fish in the North Pacific ingest as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year.” (Source: New York Times)

The situation is of dire need of our attention, which makes young inventor, Boyan Slat’s, recent invention so inspiring. Boylan has designed an Ocean Cleanup Array, which he claims could remove up to 7+million tons of plastic waste from our oceans.

The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel.

Slat went on to found The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization which is responsible for the development of his proposed technologies. His ingenious solution could potentially save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals annually, and reduce pollutants (including PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain. It could also save millions per year, both in clean-up costs, lost tourism and damage to marine vessels.

(Source: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/03/19-year-old-student-develops-ocean-cleanup-array-that-could-remove-7250000-tons-of-plastic-from-the-worlds-oceans.html)

Here is Boylan at TEDxDelft, in an effort to grow funding for his project:

Even though Boylan’s invention is a long way from development and barely scratches the surface of the necessary clean-up efforts, it does offer us a potential tool for helping to clean up this catastrophe. It also shows us how heavily invested the youth of today are in the future.

The problem with plastic will not go away without raising the awareness of all people. Inventive minds such as Boylan Slat are a ray of hope for a solution, but without a great change in people’s everyday awareness and attitudes, not much can be done to stop this.

Cutting out plastic completely is probably impossible in this day and age, but perhaps we can all make an effort to use a bit less. In many countries, health food stores allow you to bring your own packaging to purchase items from food bins, versus buying everything prepackaged in plastic bags and containers. Even certain cities, such as Austin, Texas USA, are starting to ban use of grocery plastic bags in supermarkets.

As an “aware” citizen, I thought to myself, “How could I really have such a significant impact…? I don’t even use all that many plastic bags anyway.” And then I started to pay attention.

Try it for a month. Pay close attention to just how many plastic items you buy, discard, recycle, and reuse. As you do this, you’ll want to reuse and recycle, because you will quickly notice that each and every one of us buys and discards an exorbitant amount of plastic.

Support companies and stores that are more environmentally conscious in regard to packaging and distributing foods and products. Buy plastics made out of organic polymers, making them biodigredable, considering prices of these plastics are become more competitive. Be an aware shopper – our oceans, the living beings inside them, the planet – all need more kindness and awareness from us if they are to survive.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and an avid student of Yoga and life.

Sources:

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/plastic-thrown-away-year-us

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/business/energy-environment/raising-awareness-of-plastic-waste.html

http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/03/19-year-old-student-develops-ocean-cleanup-array-that-could-remove-7250000-tons-of-plastic-from-the-worlds-oceans.html

http://www.arteideas.co.uk/blog/how-convenience-is-killing-our-planet/

http://www.tedxdelft.nl/

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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10 Comments on "The Convenience of Plastic Is Killing Our Oceans"

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  1. GuardDuck says:

    Please teach it to the masses….

    • Jose K says:

      That is our major problem. We feel helpless because we think the masses will not be reached, will not do anything about it. We need to be the masses. Once we change our ways of doing things, the rest will take care of itself. The only and effective way to change the world is to start the change within ourselves. The world is a reflection of each one of us. Focus only on what’s out there and it will keep repeating endlessly. Namaste

      • xyz says:

        CUT THE NEW AGE CRAP. WE ARE MASSES. OF IDIOTS. WHO EXPLOIT RESOURCES, ROB THEM, WANTING MORE AND MORE AND MORE AND MORE THEN WONDERING WHY THE WORLD IS AS IT IS…. WORLD IS A REFLECTION OF EACH ONE OF US? THAT INCLUDES PAEDOPHILES, MURDERERS TOO? DUDE, STOP SMOKING TOO MUCH WEED….

        • The One says:

          Dude… Weed good… Thinking bad… Smoke my little consumers… Smoke!!!! Mu ha ha ha!!!! This message is brought to you by EXXON MOBIL.

  2. halderon says:

    I firmly believe both of the previous posts. Unless we define our selves as responsible nothing can or will be done to relieve this tragedy.

  3. prAna says:

    So much exposure and education is needed for the masses on the subject of plastic pollution. Read more at http://www.prana.com/catalogsearch/result/?origin=store&x=-1173&y=-17&q=plastic

  4. xyz says:

    AND WE STILL CONTINUE TO BREED RECKLESSLY AND COMPLAIN WE ARENT ENUFF, WANTING MORE RIGHTS. OF COURSE, SINCE MORE SLAVES ARE NEEDED FOR THIS SICK SOCIETY…. AND CONTRACEPTION IS A SIN, YEAH, RITE, BABY…. WHY KEEP A PLANET, A WORLD SAFE WHEN WE CAN KILL IT? COZ MAN RULZ, YEAH, RITE….

  5. Tom A. says:

    The supermarkets in my town switched over to degradable plastic grocery bags nearly ten years ago. Banning was not an option as studies have shown greater use of large non-degradable bags when the small thin grocery bags are not available for throwing out garbage etc. The new bags fall apart very quickly — sometimes too quickly — thus never end up in trees, on fences or in the ocean.

  6. Mavie says:

    I saw that video of the “bird island” – and it was so sad to watch how these poor birds (both mature adults to hatchlings) are so affected by our garbage..

    This video by Boyle is inspiring indeed..

    I really try to minimise the amount of plastic, and re-use things as much as possible, but plastic is truly everywhere..

    There is also this great invention by a man in Japan who through process of distillation (?) is able to turn back the plastic, any plastic, back into oil.. His invention really does work. Not that I’m for oil, but at least, it could help turning the clean-up of oceans with somewhat of a profit to keep the ball rolling so to speak..

  7. Stephen Meares says:

    If i am able to, i burn plastic waste as like in the pot belly stove fire i have. I feel its more environmentally sensible to do this than to put into waste landfill sites as the atmosphere proves over and over that it will break down any gaseous elements going into it.

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