Two Hundred MILLION (200,000,000) TONS of plastic are produced every year.
All plastic products are made from petrochemicals. As the name implies, a main ingredient in petrochemicals is OIL.
The average American uses 290 pounds of plastic every year.
Every hour Americans use and discard 2.5 million plastic bottles, totaling 22 billion a year.
According to Greenpeace, of the 25 billion pounds of plastic the US produces each year just 1 billion is recycled. Though many plastics can be recycled in principle, in practice sorting it into separate categories is too labor intensive to be viable. Many complex products like cell phones and computers have so many different plastic components that sorting out the various types would be too expensive.
What happens to the plastic that is not recycled?
Unlike naturally occurring compounds, plastic does not photo-degrade, it simply breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and lingers in the environment as an invisible toxic dust.
Unlike naturally occurring compounds, plastic does not bio-degrade, it simply breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and lingers in the environment as an invisible toxic dust.
In other words it stays around FOREVER. That's 200,000,000 tons annually that we can't get rid of, ever. Is that a problem? Depends on whether or not you're interested in the continuation of life on this planet. If you are, and I sincerely hope so, please read on.
Close to 20% of discarded plastic ends up in the sea. There is an area known formally as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Eastern Garbage Patch. It is 1,000 miles west of San Francisco, a swirling mass of plastic in an area twice the size of Texas. A study by the United Nations Environmental Program estimates that in this region there are 46,000 floating pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean and the trash now circulates to a depth of 30 meters.
When the central section of the Garbage Patch drifts over the Hawaiian Islands, Waimanalo Beach on Oahu is coated with blue-green plastic sand while Midway Atoll - a major rookery for albatross - is now a PERMANENT trash heap. Greenpeace estimates that a million sea birds a year die from plastic ingestion, many of them chicks that have starved to death with bellies full of plastic cigarette lighters, toy soldiers and bottle caps. About 100,000 marine mammals also die. Sea turtles migrating past the Garbage Patch do not know the difference between a floating jellyfish and a floating plastic bag and frequently consume plastic bags. Scientists who study the Rubbish Vortex say there is little we can do to clean it up. Most of what is now there will eventually sink to the ocean floor where it will seriously disrupt ocean ecosystems.
Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, traveled over 100 km at random lengths in the North Pacific Gyre collecting samples of seawater. When the samples were analyzed he discovered that .there is six times more plastic by weight in this area than there is naturally occurring plankton. Fish and birds that feed on plankton are now dieing of starvation because they are consuming mostly plastic instead of plankton.
Nurdles are small pellets of plastic that are the base material for producing all the disposable plastic stuff we buy. 250 billion lbs of nurdles are shipped yearly and vast numbers are spilled in transit. One tenth of beach trash worldwide is nurdles and they have been found as far away as Antarctica. In the Rubbish Vortex, every single trawl netted nurdles. To an albatross, nurdles look a lot like clumps of roe and they are often mistaken for food and fed to infant birds. Nurdles also act as sponges for persistent organic pollutants such as DDT and PCB's, oily toxins that don't dissolve in water These plastic pellets have been found to accumulate up to one million times the level of these poisons - and they are entering the food chain from the filter feeders up
There is now a vast amount of plastic in our soil and food supply also, causing:
Structural damage to the brain
Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
Altered immune function
Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Scientists who study the problem say there is no solution except to cut down on our use of plastic. It is imperative that we do so in order to ensure the continuation of life on our planet. This is not an exaggeration, we MUST stop poisoning our environment. Every time we discard plastic items, we are potentially sentencing sea creatures and other wildlife to death.