Most plastics are oil derived and non biodegradable. Which means plastics last for decades, centuries possibly forever. We are using this everlasting product to make items that are used once and then discarded. Items that end up as litter.
This is an introduction to the darker side of plastic with links to more information on the following. Read on or jump to your subject of interest via the menu on the right.
Bad Plastic- An Introduction
Over the past few years it has been growing on me an ever-increasing hatred of plastic. This may seem an unreasonable reaction to a product that is strong, lightweight and waterproof all at once, that houses my computer and stops the electricity from running out of my plugs. O.k. I don’t hate all plastic what I actually hate is the abuse of plastic. I hate the way this incredibly versatile product is used to make stupid trashy one use items that quickly become everlasting rubbish.
What is plastic?
Most plastics (and we are talking millions of tons each year) are distilled from oil.
Ethane (one of main ingredients of plastic) can also be obtained from coal, gas and plants as well as oil.
Naptha and ethane derived plastic are non-biodegradable plastics.
There are (a very small percentage of) other plastics with different qualities but most plastics are oil derived and non biodegradable.
How much rubbish?
Because oil derived plastics are cheap, plentiful and versatile we use them for just about everything including one use throwaway objects and packaging. In the UK alone we generate 3 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, 56% of which is used packaging, three-quarters of which is from households. (waste on line)
- Check out the amount of plastic trash being dumped world-wide everyday.
- look at the trash we created in a week.
We, all of us, are creating huge amounts of rubbish which is extremely expensive to dispose of.
Because most plastics do not biodegrade plastic lasts for a long time possibly for ever. It cannot be composted or left to rot where it is dropped or dumped like organic rubbish. Every bit of plastic rubbish has to be collected up and specially disposed of… and this isn’t easy.
Burning it at best adds to global warming, at worst can release extremely toxic chemicals. It has to be done with care.
Put it in landfills and it just sits there.
Recycling is not always an option and it comes at a cost
We use plastic for fast food packaging, sweet wrappers and disposable cups – things that are used for minutes before being discarded. Things that end up as litter… but because it is made out of plastic, has a huge life span. We have created everlasting litter that is increasing exponentially with distressing consequences.
Perhaps the most obvious problem with plastic is our plastic trashed planet looks extremely ugly. Visit our gallery of world-wide plastic pollution to see the evidence.
This everlasting litter is not just a visual blight but dangerous too.Plastic pollution is damaging our world.
- Drainage systems get blocked with plastic causing flooding,
- layers of plastic trash choke grasslands and lakes
- rivers and waterways get clogged with plastic debris.
Sea of rubbish
Since the ocean is downstream, much of the plastic trash generated on land ends up there. ” It has been estimated that 6.4 million tons of debris end up in the world’s oceans every year and that some 60 to 80 percent of that debris, or 3.8 to 5 million tons, is improperly discarded plastic litter “. Encyclopedia Brittanica. Marine debris, a polite term for mostly plastic trash, is already a huge and troubling problem.
- Everyday tons of trash gets washed ashore and cleaning beaches is increasingly expensive.
- 70 percent of discarded plastic sinks to the bottom, smothering the sea bed and the bottom feeders who live there.
- Fish and sea birds ingest plastic which can kill them.
- Read more here
Traditional plastics degrade rather than biodegrade, which means they simply break up and fall apart into smaller pieces. The plastic has not changed its structure as such – merely fragmented. And it seems the process can continue indefinitely. Particles of plastic of 20 microns in diameter (a width thinner than a human hair) have been identified.
Sources of micro plastics are
Degraded plastic – larger plastic products breaking down into smaller pieces
Cosmetic products that contain tiny plastic beads which are washed off and washed out to sea.
Synthetic clothing that release thousands of plastic fibres every wash.
Read more here
Plastic in the environment presents a danger to animals in a number of ways.They eat plastic trash mistaking it for food which causes internal damage and blockages.Even if the plastic doesn’t kill them outright a diet of plastic is nutrition free. Animals that eat plastic are underdeveloped and underweight.The chemicals in plastic can poison them.Many get tangled in plastic twine and ghost fishing nets and starve to death.
The first stage in plastic production, the polymerisation of raw material.
Then substances such as fillers and chemicals (sometimes called monomeric ingredients), are added to give color, texture and a whole range of other qualities.
Manufacturers are not obliged to reveal what they use in their plastic mixes. So while the polymers used in base plastics are mostly considered to be harmless, the potential toxicity of the additives is often unknown.
It is claimed that many of the additives used have not been passed as fit for human consumption and that more research needs to be done on the safe handling and ultimate disposal of these plastics.
More worrying still they leach from plastic into us.
Plastic particles attract persistent organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are a small set of toxic chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods and accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals. Bottom feeders eat the plastic pellets and so the POPs enter the food chain.
To add insult turns out plastic isn’t even that cheap!
So while plastic is a fantastic product with many wonderful applications, it has a dark side. Using to make one use disposable and short-life items that quickly end up as everlasting rubbish seems incredibly foolhardy. Which is why I cut unnecessary plastic from my life.
Here is my plastic free tool kit…