The Truth About Plastic Pollution

Enjoy swimming in the ocean? Fancy going for a little dip in the lake? Think again.

If you’re like me and enjoy the wonderful feeling of an early morning swim in a lake or cooling off in the sea after a hot day on the beach, then you’ll also be alarmed to know about the terrible state our oceans, lakes and rivers are in. With more and more plastic being thrown away every year, our natural water resources are starting to feel the effects.

The very idea that I’m swallowing microplastics as I swim fills me with dread and completely puts me off the idea of taking a dip this summer.

We have been throwing away so much rubbish into the sea that the plastic has now reached the arctic. While it was a romantic idea throwing a message in a bottle out to sea, it’s a not so romantic idea throwing your rubbish away, which has now become an excessive past time.

Last year on the shores of the artic, 30 tonnes of rubbish were collected. Household litter, food wrapping, bottles. But the main culprit is equipment from fisheries, copius pieces of rope due to the international fishing fleets that operate offshore. It’s not just the fisheries, litter is found coming from all parts of Europe and even from the Atlantic. The rubbish breaks down into small pieces which becomes a real problem to the wild life.

We’re seeing majestic seabirds declining, remote island with beaches covered with plastics, children swimming in rivers choked by plastic bags. Studies even show microplastic particles in the air we breathe and the food we eat.

You may see this problem as something that isn’t your responsibility. And we think because we’re recycling, we’re doing our bit. But it’s a lot worse than we think.

7% of all plastic found on our beaches is coming directly from our homes. More specifically our toilets. We’re literally flushing the health of our environment down the toilet. 1/3 of people are flushing plastic down the toilet.

As a nation we’re throwing cotton buds down the toilet in their millions and being so small they pass through the sewage filters and pass out into our rivers and sea, especially in times of heavy rainfall.

This is just one example of the plastic that gets flushed down our toilet.

Check out Chris Jordan’s Albatross documentary about the effects of plastic on our wildlife, specifically the Albatross. It will be available for public streaming on World Ocean Day on the 8th of June 2018.

His documentary shows the devastating and depressing result of plastic pollution. Filmed in a slow-paced yet poetic way, Jordan has created an arthouse/narrative documentary definitely worth your time in educating yourselves on the issues of plastic pollution.

See his trailer below.

Facts about Plastic Pollution

  • 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year but only half of it is used once.
  • More than 40 percent of plastic is used to create packaging.
  • In 2014, the U.S. sold over 100 billion plastic beverage bottles, the Container Recycling Institute estimated; 57 percent of them were for water. These account for 14 percent of litter
  • Tiny fragments called microplastics float in the ocean. They are often not easily seen with the naked eye.
  • One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  • 80% of rubbish in the Pacific Ocean comes from land and 20 percent comes from oil rigs, boaters, and cargo ships – the majority of this is being fishing nets.
  • BPA which is a chemical found in plastic, can be absorbed by a human body. Some can trigger various health effects and even to alter hormones. High exposure can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to a study, while tests on animals have shown the potential for damage to developing brain and reproductive systems. Plastics can be ingested by marine animals that are eventually caught as seafood and consumed by people. When buried in landfills, plastics can release chemicals that find their way into groundwater.
  • The chemicals in plastic, like BPA, are found in 93 percent of people over age six and in food and beverage can linings. Phthalates are also found in human bodies and come from food packaging, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, and medical devices. Premature infants are often exposed to these compounds when treated in neonatal intensive care units.
  • Plastic takes anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years to degrade, so one can argue that every piece of it ever produced, except for what has been incinerated, is still in existence. Much of what is in lakes and oceans is smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and a great deal of it is even microscopic.
  • People unknowingly discard and disperse tiny plastic particles. Tiny beads in toothpaste, facial scrubs, and other toiletries can be found in waters all over the world and contribute to the problem of plastic pollution that isn’t easily seen.
  • Plastic pollution doesn’t only impact water quality. The chemicals found in plastic are found in air, dust, and food.

10 Ways to Waste Less

  1. Slowly reduce the amount of disposable plastics you use.
    90% of the plastic in our daily lives is used once and then thrown away. Try to replace certain items with reusable versions.
  2. Stop buying water.
    20 billion plastic bottles are thrown away every year. Carry a resuable bottle around with you and don’t add to it.
  3. Avoid using microbeads.
    Microbeads are pretty much unknown but they exist in a lot of household products such as: facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes.
  4. Cook more.
    Making your own meals requires less takeaway containers and thus less rubbish. Even if you do go for a takeaway, bring your own reusable containers.
  5. Recycle.
    While this one may seem obvious, it can still be very much improved. Less than 14% of plastic packaging gets recycled. Confused about what is recyclabe, click here for a handy guide.
  6. Bring your own bag when you go shopping.
    This not only applies to your food shopping but also regular shopping.
  7. No more straws
    Refuse a straw at the restaurant or bring your own eco-friendly straw.
  8. Buy boxes and not bottles.
    When buying washing powderor detergent, buy one that comes in a carboard box, cardboard is much more environmentally friendly.
  9. Bring your own reusable cup to a coffee shop.
    Do your bit for the environment by bring in your own cup to a coffee shop and have them fill it up with that caffeine kick.
  10. Clean the eco-friendly way.
    There are many natural products to clean your house with, so ditch those plastic bottles that are full of chemicals and educate yourself in green cleaning. Here’s a handy list of natural cleaning products.

 

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