It’s estimated that five to thirteen million tons of plastic enters our oceans annually, where much of it can linger for hundreds of years. According to a report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, scientists estimate that there is 165 million tons of plastic swirling about in the oceans right now. And we are on pace to have more plastic than fish (by weight) in the world’s oceans by 2050. That’s some scary stuff.
The Pitcairn Islands are a group of four volcanic islands in the South Pacific, mostly known from the famed mutiny on the British ship Bounty. Pitcairn Island itself is where many of the mutineers settled and where some of their descendants live today. That small island, with a population of 57, is the only one of the group that is inhabited.
The problems caused by plastics in the environment continue to mount. Major companies around the world are endorsing and promoting efforts to combat the problem including the New Plastics Economy Initiative which aims to have 70% of plastic packaging reused and recycled globally, which is five times more than the current percentage.
Plastics clogging up our landfills and polluting our oceans are a scourge of modern life and we struggle with ways to combat this growing problem. The biggest issue is that most plastics are simply not biodegradable. Polyethylene, the common plastic found in shopping bags and numerous other products, takes between 100 and 400 years to degrade in a landfill.
On several occasions, we have talked about the enormous amount of plastic that litters the world’s oceans. Bits of bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and other objects collect in gyres, or so-called garbage patches, which have grown and grown over the decades.
It’s no secret that there is a lot of plastic debris in our oceans. In fact, scientists estimate that there is more than 165 million tons of plastic trash swirling about in our oceans today, with an additional 8.8 million tons flowing in every year. And as the oceans swell with plastic litter, hundreds of marine species are ingesting the stuff – often with dire consequences.
Back in June, we talked about The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch foundation founded in 2013 by an 18-year-old named Boyan Slat, which is developing technologies to rid the oceans of the vast collections of plastic that have been accumulating over the past 50 years.
Scientists estimate that there is more than 165 million tons of plastic swirling about in our oceans today. And another 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in oceans every year. According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there could be more plastic by weight than fish by 2050 if current trends continue.
The use of plastics has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and production of plastics is expected to double again in the next 20 years. According to Eco Watch, the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic every year. And nearly one-third of all discarded plastic is not properly disposed of or recycled.
As the world’s population grows and becomes more urban and affluent, the amount of solid waste we produce grows and grows. Over the past century, the total amount has risen tenfold. By 2025, the world-wide total is expected to double again. The average person in the United States throws away their body weight in garbage every month.
These days, many of the foods we buy, such as meat, bread, cheese and snacks – come wrapped in plastic. We end up with lots of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste. And thin plastic films are not even that great at preserving food because oxygen still gets through them.
This year, Americans will consume more bottled water than soda for the first time. The average American will buy 27.4 gallons of bottled water, over a gallon more than soda drinks.
Waste due to excess packaging of the products we buy is a real problem. It is one that most of us are conscious of and more and more businesses are making efforts toward eco-friendly packaging. There is increased use of cardboard, which is recyclable. Most of us try to reduce our waste through recycling. But as we buy more things online and have a growing variety of things delivered to our homes, it is a struggle to receive the things we order in good condition and not end up with piles of packaging materials.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to ban expanded polystyrene, the foam plastic used in food packaging, packing peanuts, coffee cups, and more. It is one of the most extensive bans of this type in the U.S.
One of the most notable success stories in recycling is that of structural plastic lumber. The material is mostly polyethylene reinforced with stiff plastics or recycled composites. Made from milk containers, coffee cups, and other recycled plastics, structural plastic lumber is lighter than steel, longer-lasting than natural lumber and strong enough to support 120-ton locomotives.
We have talked before about the increasing problem of microplastics polluting the oceans. Much of the small plastic particles result from the breakdown of plastic litter such as plastic bags, packaging and other materials. Another source is microbeads, which are often found in health products such as face scrubs and even some toothpastes.