Drowning in Plastic Waste how can we help?

Washed up plastic waste on a beach in Singapore.

Singapore Beach Litter

Plastic waste is one of the largest problems confronting the environment today. We are drowning in it. In our landfill, along our roads, in our waterways and in the ocean.

According to the Guardian “a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change”.

China has been accepting plastic and paper from much of the world for decades but as of January 1, 2018, that ended. We must now begin to deal with that additional material on top of what has been accumulated previously.  Cities like Halifax NS are now petitioning to be allowed to move vast storehouses of plastic to landfill as they no longer have room to keep it.

The use of plastic is a multi pronged problem. It is manufactured from oil and the production of oil and its byproducts causes pollution issues from the moment it is extracted from the ground.  The transportation of oil leads to spills whether by truck, rail or boat. Oil spill cleanup is expensive and generally slipshod leaving vast amounts behind up to endanger the environment for decades. As the oil is manufactured into plastic pellets additional pollution occurs causing both ground, water and air concerns. Those pollution concerns occur once again, when the pellets are converted into one time use plastic products. Every stage in the process right up to final delivery requires energy consumption in the form of electricity and fuel all contributing to the pollution of our planet.

National Geographic: A Whopping 91% of Plastic Isn’t Recycled

I don’t purport to know how to deal with the mountains and oceans of plastic already produced but I do know how to deal with it going forward. Each of us must end using single use plastic packaging. This will take effort on our part but it will make a difference. One million plastic bottles a minute is, 1,440,000,000 bottles a day or, 525,600,000,000 bottles a year. That is over 1/2 TRILLION bottles a year. If we place them end to end, they would stretch for just a hair under 50,000 miles or TWICE around our planet. That’s EVERY year.

While those those numbers are floating around in your head, you need to think about this. According to data from Los Angeles County, the exact same number of plastic grocery bags are used each year.  That’s around 500 billion plastic bags worldwide. 500,000,000,000. Five hundred followed by nine zeros. That’s a lot of bags. Those bags will spend more than 400 years degrading in landfills, blowing into treetops and languishing in our rivers, lakes and oceans, killing fish and wildlife.

Data presented by the National Park Service, over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States alone. Are you serious? Is a straw really all that important?

National Geographic: How We Can Keep Plastics Out of Our Ocean

Are you ready to help? Without everyone onboard we will fail. Remember what I said earlier, predictions are that plastic pollution will be as serious to our planet as climate change.

But what can I do?

  • use only multi-use grocery bags (preferrably cloth). Keep them in the car and don’t forget to take them with you into the store.
  • when you buy a drink from your favourite fast food place say “no straw please”. If you really, really need a straw purchase a stainless steel one that you can wash and keep in the car.
  • stop buying bottled water. It’s just tap water in most cases anyway and you can carry your own reusable bottle with you.
  • cut apart the plastic six-pack rings that join beverages so they can’t injure wildlife as well as, petition the beverage companies to replace them with biodegradable ones.
  • never purchase balloons for any reason. They kill wildlife and pollute the environment.
  • avoid plastic microbeads. Do not buy toothpaste, facial scrubs or other products containing polyethylene, polypropylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polystyrene, or polyethylene terephthalate.
  • try to avoid synthetic fibre clothing, The fibres break down in wash and release microfibres into the waterways. Try to use natural fibre products like wool and cotton. The fibres that they shed are biodegradable.

There are so many other things you can do to help the planet. Let us know what you come up by posting them in the comments.

Some extra reading:

Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

Plastic Pollution Coalition: Plastic never goes away. Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of it is used once and then discarded. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces

The Independent: Plastic pollution crisis: Four things you can do to help protect the environment. China is no longer importing the world’s recyclable plastic – so what should we do instead

Scientific American: World’s Oceans Clogged by Millions of Tons of Plastic Trash

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