Imagine a world where everything was overwhelmed by plastic pollution. If you think it’s just a bad dream, think again. And if you’re a little informed of what’s going on on this planet, you’ll probably know this worst-case scenario is gradually becoming reality. Before drowning in our own trash we need to act immediately, or it’ll be too late.
According to National Geographic a massive 91% of plastic isn’t actually recycled. Given that mathematic is not a matter of opinion, only 9% of plastics we toss away it is. Since its introduction in the 1950s – 8,3 billion metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced worldwide, 8 million tons end up in our oceans per year. That’s pretty a lot, isn’t it? What’s shocking about this, is that we’ve been able to produce all that trash in just 70 years. Thus, in less than a century we practically managed to destroy the environment. No, life in plastic is definitely not fantastic, quite the opposite.
It’s now fairly clear that our society has long since lost control over the use of plastic, giving rise to a “throw-away culture”. Needless to say, we are stuck in a vicious cycle of overconsumption. Let’s face facts. The majority of fruit and vegetables one gets from the supermarket is wrapped in plastic. Or most often, one has to pick it with a plastic glove and put it in a plastic bag. The salad-to-go one buys for lunch at the cafe on the corner is wrapped in plastic (or at least, it is the cutlery needed to eat it). The same thing goes personal hygiene and house cleaning detergents, which come mostly in short-term plastic bottles. Once running out of a product, consumers just thrown it away and replace it with countless new ones, in a neverending consumerist circle of plastic pollution hell.
Another quite common, simple and careless gesture of throwing on the ground cigarette butt. Many smokers acknowledge they discard it down the drain sometimes – might seem meaningless to most people: when repeated millions of times on a daily basis, it actually endangers marine wildlife and impacts negatively the environment. When you just think that plastic material practically don’t degrade (or rather it will, but only several years after your death) you’ll soon realize its widespread use is just pointless and has devastating effects. Thus, once acknowledged we are both victims and perpetrators of this wasteful lifestyle, we have to stop burying our head in the sand. Proactivity is what our planet needs, since our everyday behaviour can actually make a huge difference.
The problem: microplastics are entering the food chain
Speaking of plastic pollution, the word micro-plastic shouldn’t be brand-new to you. The same plastic we recklessly throw away into our oceans is highly polluting. In fact, it takes from 100 to 1000 years to decompose. It’s quite a while, don’t you think? However, this growing problem doesn’t seem easy to stop. More and more beaches worldwide are literally covered in trash, mostly plastic litter.
Over time, this gives rise to microplastics, or rather very small pieces of plastic, tiny fragments that contaminate the environment – the soil, the water and even the air. By taking a plastic bottle as an example, the decay process is more or less the following one: the sun heat and the salt let the plastic melt, causing its breakdown and turning it in smaller pieces. This plastic debris sediments and sinks on seabeds, but never totally decompose, causing irreversible damages to the marine ecosystem.
The outcome is predictable: sadly, fishes and marine fauna are going inevitably to eat those plastic fragments. And if this isn’t enough to shake your conscience, you’ll be glad to know that in this way, the plastic we throw away actually enters the food chain. What does that even mean? By acting recklessly, we’re actually damaging ourselves, since the same plastic we tossed yesterday, ends up on our plates today! And yes, you’ve read it right: we eat plastics.
Or even better, according to a new study conducted by the journal Environmental Science and Technology, we consume between 39 to 52 thousands microplastics particles per year, which could eventually be toxic to the human body. Well, as you may have guessed, microplastics are ubiquitous today in the environment and may be the result of years of breakdown of larger plastic pieces, resulting in many worrisome accumulations in our oceans.
The solution: removing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
But if the world is falling apart, you’ll be glad to know there’s still someone who cares about the environment and won’t let this plastic invasion happen. Great inventors and environmentalists actually came up with smart solutions to collect plastic waste from our oceans and cleaning up water. Fighting this huge, growing problem was the purpose of The Ocean CleanUp indeed. You’ve probably already heard about this non-profit organization, which is deeply committed in developing new technologies to eliminate waste ended up in the sea. Its CEO, the Dutch inventor Boyan Slat actually figured out an effective solution to eliminate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Still no clue what are we talking about?
In the Pacific ocean, located halfway between California and Hawaii we can find a huge floating mass of plastic waste. It looks like a continent, but made out of…trash! Well, that young, brainy guy – class of ‘94 – ideated a system, named 001/B, to get rid of the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. It’s basically a floating and flexible huge coastline, which has been specially designed this way to catch the 1.8 trillion of plastic pieces on the water surface. Three natural forces – wind, waves and currents – are the real engine of this system that converges all trash in the centre. Consequently, the system pulls out of the sea. Of course, this sort of “barrier” formed by the coastline catches trash without affecting the marine fauna, which can easily pass beneath it. For further explanations about the technology of this brilliant project, check this video out. Yes, we are able to stop plastic pollution!
The Seabin Project fights plastic pollution
Another, equally great side project to fight the plastic plague in our oceans is The Seabin Project. This non-profit, fundraising organization aims at cleaning out the ocean, too, as well as restoring its natural ecosystems. “If we have trash bins on our streets, why can’t we have the same in the sea?” That’s exactly what the ocean lovers Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turton had been asking themselves for a while before quitting their job. They were both working in the nautical business when they decided to throw themselves into this new project. These 2 Australian surfers invented a real “seabin”, or better, a “trash skimmer” which is capable of sucking all floating garbage in the surrounding water surface, cleaning the sea little by little.
Once full, you can empty the “seabin” like a normal trash bin. Its simple but brilliant technology makes it ideal to be installed at every beach club or port area, in order to clean up the garbage ending up into the sea. Not only it catches plastic bags, containers and bottles or disposable cups floating on the sea surface, but also skims surface oils and pollutants (caused by the tons of non-biodegradable detergents people generally use on a daily basis).
“Seabin”’s inventors are also developing educational programmes for children and young students, in order to encourage them to protect the environment from an early age. However, it’s not only a matter of the younger generation, since we are all called to improve our planet: and being aware of what’s going on is probably what triggers behavioural change towards a sustainable consumption model.
If we actually know what’s going on, we are more likely to change our lifestyle and mindset. Bad habits such as throwing the trash into the sea can be then avoided through a wider awareness on the potential harm of our actions. The challenge now is raising new generations of young people with an environmentally conscious behaviour and trying to solve the “mess” caused by older generations of consumers.
Without an immediate change and a serious self-examination, we won’t avoid the terrible outcome of human recklessness. Today is then the right day to stand up for the environment: donate, join environmental organizations, switch to more sustainable habits and reduce as much as you can your plastic as well as your disposable items consumption. People will follow your lead! Stop plastic pollution! Save our Planet!
PS If you really care about our Planet, you should know that one of Naturaty’s values that we are proud of, is that 100% of our products are cruelty-free and vegan! Whenever you are looking for items that will make your life more zero-waste and sustainable check our Naturaty Zero Waste Starter Box and Naturaty Active Box. They are also perfect as a vegan gift for all of those people who prefer quality over quantity, since “less is more”!