Plastic Paradise

The true cost of our plastic problem

Photos & Graphs by Evan Hess           Layout, Words & Post Production by Jerin Micheal          Cover Image by PEXELS

It's time to face our plastic problem


Plastics have become an essential part of our daily lives without us even realising it. If it's not wrapped around your breakfast coffee it will be packaging the fruit you buy at the shops, no matter where you go it's almost impossible not to have to deal with the plastic menace. Plastic only came into mainstream use in the 1950's and since then we have produced astonishing 8.3bn metric tonnes of it, we have also thrown away 6.3bn metric tonnes of it. Of all the plastic we have thrown away 79% went straight into the landfill, where it will stay for hundreds of years, only a mere 9% was recycled and the rest was incinerated.  The rate at which we use, and throw away, plastics is not sustainable. 

We intend to show you just how ludicrous the current situation is and hope to change the way you use single-use plastic. 


Where Does The Plastic Come From?

The primary use of dor plastic is packaging. It is used more to package our goods than it is used to build the world around us. The 35% of packaging does not include toys, sports and electronics. Thus showing that the consumer market is the main culprit for displacing plastic in our oceans and landfills. If the people who buy these products properly recycled and the big companies supported a more eco friendly way of preserving a product this would help in the effort of making a cleaner eco-system and Earth.

450 Years to Biodegrade

The average Brit will drink 82 litres of milk a year and 80% of this milk is sold in hard to recycle plastic containers. In 2010 Supermarkets made an effort to create and sell more 'eco-friendly' milk packaging solutions. Recyclable plastic pouches were rolled out which could be recycled at home or in store, the pouches could be combined with a milk jug to create an easy to use plastic bottle free solution. However, the products were scrapped soon after due to low sales. In recent years the 'waxy cartons' have become far more widely recyclable and so buying carton milk instead of bottled milk is an easy solution to this problem.

WAXED MILK CARTONS DEGRADE IN JUST 3 MONTHS AND CAN BE EASILY RECYCLED

450 Years to Biodegrade

Different materials take different amounts of time to decompose in landfill, by knowing which materials take the longest we can avoid using them and work on replacing them entirely. Plastic items are one of the most prevalent among landfill sites, the average piece of plastic will take around 1000 years to fully decompose. Plastic bags can take anywhere from 10 years to 10,000 years to decompose and plastic bottles take at least 450 years.

An apple will take a month to decompose and the plastic bag it came in will be around for at least 10 years

 


The use of plastics in the production process in the last 65 years has far outpaced any other manufactured material. The properties which make plastics so versatile in countless applications, their durability and resistance to degradation, also make plastic difficult and even impossible for nature to assimilate.


 

450 Years to Biodegrade


Though plastic bottles seem harmless they often contain more than just the delicious liquid inside. Plastic bottles are swimming with chemicals such as BPA, these chemicals have been proven to cause hormone imbalances and even linked to various cancers, obesity, infertility and neurological disorders.  

Though plastic bottles don't cost a lot to us, they are devastating to the environment. 32% of all the plastic created annually, 78 million tons, is left to flow directly into the sea. The mixture of UV light and salinity of the ocean makes the plastics break down and release BPA into the water. This material is ingested by small ocean lifeforms which eventually make its way back to the humans who eat them.

THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 46,000 PIECES OF PLASTIC FLOATING IN EVERY SQUARE MILE OF OCEAN

The simple solution to avoiding single-use plastic bottles is to switch to more ecological solutions such as an easily recyclable can for purchases in shops or a reusable bottle. Reusable bottles are made of sustainable materials and are also BPA free which makes it better for the planet and better for your body.


 

Who Makes The Most?

A working group of researchers recently estimated that just 20 countries, out of a total of 192 with coastlines, are responsible for 83% of the plastic debris put into the world’s oceans. Lead author Jenna R. Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, and her colleagues estimated that, all together, these 192 countries produce some 275 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. Of that volume, about 4.8–12.7 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste is thought to have entered the ocean in 2010.

450 Years to Biodegrade

Between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of debris end up in the ocean every year, most of this is improperly discarded plastic. An oceanographic survey conducted in 2014 estimated that there were 5.25 trillion individual plastic particles, weighing in at 244,000 tonnes, floating on the surface alone. This plastic becomes ingested by small organisms like plankton which then works its way up the food chain, ultimately being ingested by humans.

By 2050 the total mass of plastic debris in the sea will outweigh the total mass of sea life 

450 Years to Biodegrade

Many countries have taken steps in order to reduce the usage of 'single-use plastics'. The 5p charge on plastic bags in supermarkets has cut down their use by 85% in only 6 months. Kenya has taken this one step further by introducing a new law by which anyone caught selling or distributing single-use plastics bags faces 4 years in jail or $40,000 fine. Single-use plastics are one of the most devastating aspects of the plastic problem, they are only used for a moment but can stay in the environment for thousands of years. 

50% of the plastic we use, we use it once and throw it away 

450 Years to Biodegrade

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. 

"We decided to take a shortcut through the gyre, which few seafarers ever cross. Fishermen shun it because its waters lack the nutrients to support an abundant catch. Sailors dodge it because it lacks the wind to propel their sailboats.

"Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic.

"It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere..."

Capt. Charles Moore, discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in an article for Natural History magazine in 2003

Refuse Single Use Plastics


The world we are living in is changing rapidly, in the time it has taken you to read this page one whole garbage truck of plastic has been dumped into the sea. The effects of our plastic lifestyle are evident all around us and the time to make a change is now, this plastic way of life is simply not sustainable. By considering what we buy and how we dispose of it we can make a drastic and lasting change to the world around. Help save the environment and refuse to use single-use plastics.