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Plastic Costs A Lot

According to some “the environmental cost, including carbon pollution released during production [of plastic], is staggering. At $40 billion a year, …. it’s more than the annual profits of the plastics industry.”

Acoording to the UNEP Report 2014

It finds that the overall natural capital cost of plastic use in the consumer goods sector each year is US$75 billion – financial impacts resulting from issues such as pollution of the marine environment or air pollution caused by incinerating plastic.

The report says that over 30 per cent of the natural capital costs of plastic are due to greenhouse gas emissions from raw material extraction and processing. However, it notes that marine pollution is the largest downstream cost, and that the figure of US$13 billion is likely a significant underestimate.

Concern is growing over the threat that widespread plastic waste poses to marine life, with conservative estimates of the overall financial damage of plastics to marine ecosystems standing at US$13 billion each year, according to two reports released on the opening day of the first United Nations Environment Assembly.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation claims, in their report on plastic,  that

“Assessing global plastic packaging flows comprehensively for the first time, the report finds that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. Additionally, plastic packaging generates negative externalities, valued conservatively by UNEP at $40 billion.[1] Given projected growth in consumption, in a business-as-usual scenario, by 2050 oceans are expected to contain more plastics than fish (by weight), and the entire plastics industry will consume 20% of total oil production, and 15% of the annual carbon budget.[2]

New economic study shows marine debris costs California residents millions of dollars

Thanks to Fabiano of www.globalgarbage.org for keeping us well informed ….

AUGUST 12, 2014 — Marine debris has many impacts on the ocean, wildlife, and coastal communities. A NOAA Marine Debris Program economic study released today shows that it can also have considerable economic costs to residents who use their local beaches.

The study found that Orange County, California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach. Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer.

In order to better understand the economic cost of marine debris on coastal communities, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and Industrial Economics, Inc. (IEc) designed a study that examines how marine debris influences people’s decisions to go to the beach and what it may cost them. We selected Orange County as a study location because beach recreation is an important part of the local culture and residents have a wide variety of beaches from which to choose, some of which are likely to have high levels of marine debris.

http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/MarineDebrisEconomicStudy.pdf
http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/MarineDebrisEconomicStudy.pdf

The World Bank

estimates the yearly global cost of dealing with waste is more than $200 billion and predicts annual waste will exceed 11 million tons per day by 2100 if current trends continue. From the true cost of our waste

Local authorities, industry and coastal communities spend approximately £14 million a year to clean up beach litter in England and Wales alone (Environment Agency, 2004).
Annually the UK and maritime leisure industry is worth up to £11 billion.

Harbour authorities also have to pay to keep navigation channels free of litter – a survey of 42 harbour authorities reported that £26,100 is spent per year in some ports to clear fouled propellers and remove debris from the water

Some estimates put the cost of marine litter to the fishing industry at over £23 million a year (Environment Agency, 2002).

How much energy?

“Our previous work had suggested that bottled water production was an energy-intensive process, but we were surprised to see that the energy equivalent of nearly 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce the PET bottles alone,” Cooley told PhysOrg.com.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news156506896.html#jCp

Act Now

Let’s stop using plastic to make everlasting litter. And rather then wait for governments to act or the clean up bill get even bigger I invite you to join me in a plastic boycott. You can find loads of plastic free alternatives listed here on my blog.

 

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Straws Suck – just say no…

11181182_10153607820929653_743831970936423610_nThink refusing plastic straws is a pointless gesture? Saying no a ridiculous over reaction by the plastic free killjoys. Have a look at this gruesome video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtles snout and think again.

It is pretty distressing and some adult language is used to express the shock and shame
Please reconsider. Do you really need a plastic straw? They don’t all end up in the bin. Some end up in the sea. Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade they last for ever. They  will be there for a very long time and they can do real damage to wild life.

If you do need a straw why not get a reusable one. There are lots of options here.

If you really need a disposable straw, get a biodegradable one – they do exist – try this link..

Its not just straws and turtles, plastic trash is implicated in the maiming and death of hundreds of animals, birds and marine life. Check out the reports here.

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Bring back real litter!

Since the introduction of plastic, litter has been hijacked and turned into something unsustainable. I want to restore litter to its rightful place in the ecological cycle. I say lets reclaim litter from packaging businesses and get it back in the compost bins.

The New Litter
Imagine a world where litter if dropped would in a few weeks at most, have transformed itself into healthy compost to feed the next generation of plants. Rubbish you could safely burn on the bonfire and then spread the ashes round your gooseberries. Trash you didn’t have to carefully sort before paying a great deal to have it removed and specially dealt with.
Thats how rubbish used to be before we started using plastic for wrapping and packaging just about everything. Most plastic does not biodegrade so it cannot be composted, it is not easily burnt and it cannot be fed to the pigs. Instead this plastic rubbish lasts for decades, centuries possibly for ever. If it escapes out into the environment it is out there for ever.
using plastic, a product that lasts for generations for disposable throw away products we use for moments before discarding has completely changed our relationship with rubbish and littering generally.
What No Bin?
While this might not be so noticeable in some places. it bcomes horrible apparent elsewhere.
A while ago I went to visit the nomads who live out in the Persian deserts. We sat in a circle drinking tea and eating sunflower seeds. As we muched we scattered the discarded seed husks around our feet. Then one of my companions brought out some shop bought sweets. All the kids went crazy for this big city treat excitedly ripping off the shiny plastic wrappers. Then as they did with the seed husks, they dropped the glittering plastic skins onto on the ground. Because that’s what they do with litter. And until now it hasn’t been a problem. The seed husks of course biodegrade back into the soil but the plastic sweet wrappers are there for ever.
So what to do with them? Plastic can only be disposed of in a few very specialized, costly and labour intensive ways. It has to be collected up, transported and buried in landfill, burnt in a high specification incinerators or recycled. But these are nomads. They don’t have a rubbish collection service. Indeed they are a donkey ride away from the nearest road. There is an open dump some distance away where household waste is thrown. It used to be self managing. The goats scavenged through it for food and what was left would eventually biodegrade. Now of course it is and evergrowing morass of plastic bottles, tangled with plastic bags and shiny wrappers. Looking closer and you could see that the sandy scrub land all around us was scattered with plastic trash. The nomads sometimes try  to burn their plastic trash but it doesn’t burn well on open fires. All around the camp were warped and blackened half-melted misshapes. Burning plastic at best smells dreadful and adds to global warming, at worst it can release dangerous fumes. Not something you want to be trying at home – or outside your tent.This simple world once self sustaining is becoming increasingly polluted.

This is long it takes for natural products to biodegrade, when scattered about as litter:
Paper ~ 2-5 months
Cotton rags ~ 1-5 month
Natural fiber rope ~ 3-14 months
Orange peel ~6 months
Wool socks ~1 to 5 years
Leather shoes ~25 to 40 years
Tin cans ~ 50 to 100 years
Plastic lasts for ever.

Cheap enough to trash but not disposable….
So now when the nomads move on they leave a heap of everlasting trash that the hot, dry wind scatters across the plain. But what is the answer? Should the nomads be banned from using plastic they can’t dispose of, not allowed access to fizzy drinks, processed food, aspirin or anything packaged in disposable plastic packaging?
Though plastic packaging and one-use products are described as disposable they aren’t. Not really. What disposable means in this context is that these items are cheap enough to be used once and then discarded.

Because plastic lasts for ever, every bit of plastic trash has to be collected and specially treated. So along with the landfill site,incinerator or recycling plant to actually treat plastic waste, you need roads, refuse trucks, a workforce and the money to pay for it all. Consequently it’s not just nomads who have plastic trash problem. You can find appalling examples of plastic pollution in
Countries with weak or corrupt governments,
Remote places with a limited infrastructure including many beaches
Communities with little money
Societies upset by war, natural disasters and other calamities.

There are many reasons why a community may not be able to dispose of its plastic trash but the results are always disastrous. There are swathes of plastic trash spoiling the beaches, choking streams and littering verges. It is mixed in with the house hold waste on open rubbish dumps and every year hundreds of wild and domestic animals die or are permanently maimed as a result of accidentally ingesting plastic. Plastic pollution is impacting on the tourist trade, polluting washing water and damaging the livelihood of the poorest, those who depend on rivers for water, whose animals graze on common land.

Real Litter And The Natural Process
Littering, feral cows and open rubbish dumps as methods of waste disposal are not without their problems but it is worth noting that isolated villages and islanders have managed their rubbish for this way for hundreds of years and maintained clean, working landscape. Because rather than doing long term damage, real litter is an essential part of a natural process. Many fruits rely on littering to spread their seed. Think apples – the fruit is eaten the core discarded elsewhere it rots and the seeds hopefully get to germinate.
Dumping biological litter releases essential nutrients back into the soil. Compost and partially rotted matters helps improve soil structure and feed the millions a tiny creatures essential for healthy eco system.
Natural waste is an essential part of the biological cycle. Traditional methods of waste disposal work with the ecosystem and help return nutrients as part of the natural cycle.This is an intact nutrient cycle.
broken nutrint cycle
As societies become distanced from this cycle they see waste products not essentials elements in a circular system but a useless end product of a linear system that have to be specially disposed of.
This is called a broken system and is ecologically unhealthy.Yet this is the system that plastic manufacturers like to promote. Reason being of course that plastic does not belong in the circular biological system. Plastic litter is an unnatural end product that has to be specially disposed of. 
broken nutrient cycle
Great images were Found on vergepermaculture.ca
Litter once used to describe natural shedding of material as in leaf litter is now also refers unnatural and environmentally damaging human detritus escaping into the ecosystem.

Why should you care
If you are reading this in a country that has a workable infrastructure, regular rubbish collections and street cleaners you might feel that that unnatural litter is not your problem. It can be collected and disposed of for you and as for returning nutrients to soil, who needs compost when we have chemists to make fertilizer?
But consider this then this system only works for as long as there is stability, money and manpower. Its rather like saying who needs stairs if you have a lift. Fine when the lift is working but if it breaks down, goes on strike or you don’t have the money to maintain it…. well you can see where I am going with this.
Or this; current methods of waste disposal in richer countries are extremely expensive. You are paying a great deal of money to clean up this trash.
More importantly all these clean up methods come  with their own serious side effects. Put plastic in landfill and it just sits there. Consequently the landfill sites are nearly full and news ones are in increasingly short supply. Burning plastic is controversial with many groups claiming it releases toxins into the atmosphere. It certainly adds to global warming.
plastic plankton pollution #plastic
Recycling has a role to play but it is not cost effective to recycle all plastics so only percentage are. All of these methods require a lot of resources. None resolve the problem of plastic litter that has escaped into the environment.

Litter Louts
And of course even the best waste collection system are only partially effective. Certainly there are large parts of the U.K. that are badly plastic damaged. Litter louts the cry goes up. And as someone who picks up other peoples plastic trash I hate them too. But when it comes to litter, tossers are only part of the problem. Even if we caught all litterers and locked them up, we would still have a litter problem because a lot of littering is accidental. Think sweets dropped unnoticed, picnic ware left behind and plasters peeling off. More is down to natural causes, mostly wind blown. Plastic trash is often gusted back out of bins. Anyone who lives near a rubbish treatment site will know that a lot of plastic escapes back out into the environment.
Any one who lives in the countryside knows that black and green plastic used on farms gets everywhere. Much of the plastic on the roadside is packaging blown off lorries. Animals scrabbling in bins also do a lot of damage.

 

exfoliate imageThen there is littering thats not considered littering. Because these products are labelled disposable there is the assumption that they are safe to throw them away. Because they often mimic products which are genuinely biodegradable it is easy to understand why people get confused. What could be more biodegradable than a teabag. Paper and leaves. But the paper contains plastic that will live for ever in your compost heap.

The plastic exfoliating beads in your face scrub that get washed down the sink and into the sea are micro plastic pollutants that many countries are now banning.

A tampon that looks like it is made of cotton wool is neither cotton or wool but plastic. And thousands of them get flushed down the toilet and have to be dealt with at the other end. By hand. Urghhhh! You can find a list of sneaky plastics here

Whatever the reasons anyone who uses plastic disposables, (which is everyone), is deliberately, accidentally or through ignorance guilty of improperly discarding them at some point. Consequently huge amounts of plastic disposables escape out into the environment on a daily basis. And not just onto the streets and into the trees. Scientists are findings increasing amounts of plastic in the sea and soil and animals they support. Our discarded plastic is changing the environment in fundamental and irreversible ways.

Who Is Responsible

The plastics industry say end users should behave more responsibly, stop littering and start recycling more. Well of course they would as this shifts the focus from the huge amounts of trash being created by their industry. To dispose of plastic properly the end user needs to be able finance an expensive system of specialized plastic treatment plants and organize regular rubbish collections. Then they need to know the difference between what is compostable and what looks as though it is. To research and find the plastic  in the most unlikely places (teabags, toothpaste and glitter soap) and then dispose of it “properly”. Though how anyone is going to dispose of plastic micro beads in facewash properly is beyond me.

Their arguments are a smoke screen. It is futile to say that people should stop littering. Some won’t  and others don’t know they are doing it.  It completely ignores littering as a result of natural cause and disasters. It disregards littering as a result of poverty by those who have no access to waste disposal systems. It seems expect that impoverished countries to find the money to implement effective waste control measures.

Basically it is an attempt to  divert blame from where it really lies – with the product. Something that is made to be discarded has to be properly disposable not properly disposed of. Any disposable, throwaway product has to be designed bearing the following points in mind

  • Litter does not always end up in the bin
  • End of life disposal methods
  • The cost and practicality of effective waste disposal
  • Allow for the consumer manage waste at the point of creation
  • To present no danger to the natural ecosystem
  • To must have a lifespan of months maximum

Waste in short has to be natural, compostable, safe for animals to eat and carbon neutral to burn. Plastic fails on just about every count.
We have to go back to traditional litter, real litter that meets all of the above criteria. Returning to real litter does not mean littering is to be endorsed. Yes you can dispose of a banana peel by throwing it in the bushes where it will naturally compost but if everyone did so there would be heaps of festering food  and rats the size of rabbits.

The natural environment can only cope with a fixed amount of waste at any time. Too much and it becomes overwhelmed. In larger communities littering would still need to controlled but it would be via  municipal composting schemes… more of this later. In the meantime,  if the banana peel did end up in the bushes, it would do no harm.

At worst real rubbish would look untidy and only for the time it took to rot away. It certainly wouldn’t have dreadful consequences that plastic littering has. Making throwaway items out of a material that damages the environment,  is a danger to animals  and impacts adversely on the poorer members of the community is, to put it very kindly, irresponsible.

Using those products is endorsing and encouraging this irresponsibility. We have to stop using plastic to make disposable products. But rather than wait (probably a very long time), for governments to, (possibly), legislate, I would suggest we take individual responsibility now. I urge you to join me in the campaigning for real rubbish ( working title CAMFORR)  by boycotting plastic, so-called disposables and demanding biodegradable alternatives.

CAMFORR Refusing to use to keep it clean.

You can find are loads of  compostable plastic free and plastic less products here

Want to shop plastic free – try this reusable and compostable packaging

Reports and statistics on plastic trash, pollution and uptake by animals here and check out P-f U.K. directory of plastivists.

Other campaigns – ask Diary Crest to keep glass refillable milk bottles – sign the petition Any designers out there? We need  logo!

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Plastic Chemicals & Food

Plastic packed food is unappealing in many ways. For me the most immediate problem is the flavor, or lack of it rather. I find it hard to tell which is the plastic and which is the food. Then there is the trash created. Every prepackaged meal results in hundreds of non-biodegradable wrappers that have to be specially disposed off by the state. And that doesn’t come cheap. But we are told it is worth it because it is cleaner and more hygienic to sell food this way. Safer.

But is it really? Many of the chemicals used in plastic production are toxic, carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors. There is no doubt that they leach out of the plastic into the product, equally true is that many of these chemicals are toxic. The question now is do we need to be concerned. (If the question is “whats a chemical?” you might like to read this, and possibly this on endocrine disruptors)

Do all plastics leach chemicals?

E-How states that all “plastic bottles leach chemicals in some degree.” BPA has been shown to leach out of plastic liners and products. Clingfilm leaches pthalates.

As I understand it ,the more fluid the contents the more likely the leaching. Dry products loose in a plastic bag may not absorb chemicals from the plastic, water in a bottle  and contents of a plastic lined will. Moist, high fat products like cheese readily absorb chemicals. For example Cheesemongers advise against storing cheese  in direct contact with plastic. ” being mostly oil and fat, is able to absorb flavors and chemicals from the plastic, which you definitely don’t want.”

Is this a health risk?

It is a matter of determining if the chemicals are inherently harmful, and if the levels reach a point that is cause for concern. As toxologolists love to say – its not the poison its the dose. For sure many of the chemicals used in plastic are toxic but it is claimed that the amounts are so small as to be irrelevant. However no one  knows what the long term implications may be. Or how those chemicals interact with each other.

Some studies…

The Guardian reported in 2014 that scientists were concerned about the effect synthetic chemicals used in the processing, packaging and storing of the food might have on our long-term health. They quoted  the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, part of the British Medical Journal group.

“The scientists claim that tiny amounts of synthetic chemicals leach into food. While these minute quantities in themselves do no harm, no one knows how safe we are from a lifetime’s exposure to the chemicals, such as formaldehyde, through eating food previously wrapped or stored in plastics.Altogether, more than 400 chemicals are involved.Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated and policy-makers struggle to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly,” they write.

The Global Mail talking of the same study notes that “of the 6,500 chemicals found in food manufacturing materials, the vast majority have “flown under the radar,”

Only about 25 per cent of these chemicals have been tested for their toxicity, Muncke said. Meanwhile, tiny amounts of potential carcinogens and hormone disruptors are seeping into our breakfast cereals, canned soups, crackers, frozen vegetables and packaged meats.”

Or this from the Science Daily in 2011

“In her research, Lithner studied the toxicity of 83 randomly selected plastic products and synthetic textiles. The newly purchased products were leached in pure (deionised) water for 1-3 days. The acute toxicity of the water was then tested using water fleas (Daphnia magna).

“A third of all the 83 plastic products and synthetic chemicals that were tested released substances that were acutely toxic to the water fleas, despite the leaching being mild.”

And these are just some studies taken from a growing body of reports all confirming that plastics leach chemicals. Some claim tentative links to cancers, others say not yet most suggest this needs to monitored. You can find links to a range of studies here.

Conclusion eat in a week, packaging

Real problem or alarmist chemophobic reporting? There are many toxic, chemical substances we are happy to guzzle voluntarily – alcohol for instance. But if a chemical doesn’t make you really good at karaoke, and can be easily avoided, there seems little point in ingesting it.

So I like to think I am cutting the potential risks. And the very real plastic trash.

To be on the safe and compostable side lets

Cut The Chemicals In Your Diet

Avoid Processed food and cook from fresh. There is lots of plastic-free food here

Don’t buy food packed in

Don’t use the plastic bags available when buying loose food but take your own plastic-free and reusable packaging.

Store food in glass, steel or ceramic containers.

Do not use cling film to cover or wrap food.

Do not heat or serve hot food or drinks in food in plastic containers.

Try freezing food in glass jars  or compostable plastic

Avoid plastic breadboards, plates and cups.

Avoid plastic cooking utensils

Step away from the non-stick pans

Get a milk man who delivers in glass bottles.

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Chemicals, A definition

Plants and animals are organic everything else is inorganic
Inorganic things are made from chemicals. Chemicals are also found in organic things too.

Confused yet?
All matter contains chemicals – either single chemicals, such as pure water or oxygen or a mixture of chemicals – such as shampoos.
Elemental chemical composition of the average adult human body. Six elements  oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus account for 99% of the mass of the human body.

Chemicals are made from atoms and can be identified from the elements in the periodic charts
Some chemicals biodegrade – others do not.
Some chemicals occur naturally others are man made.
There are many new man made chemicals. Chemicals are also being combined a new and different ways with unknown consequences.

Chemophobia
The irrational fear of chemicals – usually a fear of man-made chemicals.
Rational Wiki “the line between natural and unnatural chemicals is a blurred one, or even totally non-existent. Many industrially important chemicals are produced via natural (biological) processes, such as fermentation to produce ethanol and monosodium glutamate, or extracted from plants and bacteria, such as caffeine extracted from coffee beans. Equally, these substances can be synthesised in a lab and purified in the same way. Despite absolutely no detectable differences between purified natural products and their synthesised counterparts, chemophobia postulates that the “artificial” one is worse.”

Plastic & Chemicals – Concerns
Some of the chemicals used to make plastic have not been passed as fit for human consumption. More worrying still they leach from plastic into us. Other plastics like PVC will, when burnt, release dioxin one of the most powerful carcinogens known. 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.

Burning plastic in the home

Some feel my worrying about plastic in the home is taking it too far?  Disposables? Yes, they can see I ...
Read More

Plastic Chemicals & Food

Plastic packed food is unappealing in many ways. For me the most immediate problem is the flavor, or lack of ...
Read More

Endocrine disruption, fish & polyethylene

Early warning signs of endocrine disruption in adult fish from the ingestion of polyethylene with and without sorbed chemical pollutants from the marine ...
Read More

Perfluorochemicals and plastic

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a family of man-made chemicals. They have been around since the 1950s. They include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; ...
Read More

Phthalates.

are used as a plasticiser  used to make a material like PVC softer and more flexible. But they are also ...
Read More

Endocrine System & Endocrine Disruptors

A few quotes on the endocrine system....... "Although we rarely think about them, the glands of the endocrine system and ...
Read More

Antimony

Is a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemical - ie one that lasts a long time, accumulates in the food chain ...
Read More

Persistant Organic Pollutants

I was under the impression that pops was some kind of horrid Yorkshire dish involving hot milk and bits of ...
Read More

Chemicals & Additives In Plastic

The first stage in plastic production, the polymerisation of raw material. Then substances such as fillers and chemicals (sometimes called ...
Read More

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manmade chemicals. They are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, ...
Read More

PTFE Non stick plastic

When I was young and innocent, I knew nothing of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Well, it's not the kind of thing a ...
Read More

PVC

 A white brittle plastic until you add plasticisers the most common being phthalates then it becomes soft and flexible. PVC is ...
Read More

What’s in a PET bottle?

I am lucky enough to live in a country that supplies clean drinkable tap water so obviously I don’t need ...
Read More

Tin Cans, Plastic Liners & Health

So you think, no that you've given up plastic but at least you can buy stuff in tins. At least ...
Read More

BPA

Bisphenol A or BPA is it is known to its chums is used in some thermal paper products such as till receipts. the ...
Read More

Dioxins & Burning plastic

So, is it safe to burn plastic? Well most plastics don't  burn easily - it melts and bubbles.  It will burn eventually ...
Read More

N.B.

I have no wish to add to the massive amounts of misinformation out there.

Please note I am no chemist, I know nothing of the sciences. Any information here has been gleaned from the unreliable Google Mines and filtered through my total ignorance. I think it’s correct. If It’s not please do tell me.

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Micro-plastics & pollution

Micro plastics are microscopic or very small pieces of plastic that can be found in soil, water even in the air. They are too small to collect or clean up so there they stay. We have now  changed the ecosphere irreversibly – with as yet unknown results.

“The scale of global microplastic contamination is only starting to become clear, with studies in Germany finding fibres and fragments in all of the 24 beer brands they tested, as well as in honey and sugar. In Paris in 2015, researchers discovered microplastic falling from the air, which they estimated deposits three to 10 tonnes of fibres on the city each year, and that it was also present in the air in people’s homes.”

And in the tap water too

Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres.
The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates.

All from the Guardian

But there are ways to combat this! Read on…..

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.

Degraded Plastic

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.

These particles are called micro plastics. And  they are being found in increasing amounts in seawater and rivers.  Professor Richard Thompson from the University of Plymouth have found particles smaller than a grain of sand and  estimate there are 300,000 items of plastic per sq km of sea surface, and 100,000 per sq km of seabed. There is more on Professor Richard Thompsons work here

What to do?

Cosmetics  

Tiny plastic beads are added to some product for texture or colour. Some exfoliating scrubs and toothpastes contain them. These beads are washed down the plughole after use, are too small to be filtered out of waste water and so end up in the water ways. A ridiculous form of pollution and

What to do?

Synthetic Fabrics

Washing synthetic fabrics and clothing also releases millions of microscopic plastic fibers. These are then discharge into sewage system and ultimately out to sea.

By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Dr Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans. And that, 85% of synthetic  material found on the shoreline were nylon and acrylic microfibers, and matched the types of material used in clothing.

“We were quite surprised. Some polyester garments released more than 1,900 fibres per garment, per wash,” Dr Browne observed. “It may not sound like an awful lot, but if that is from a single item from a single wash”

You can read the full report here and the clothing industries response here in the the guardian, and about Dr Browne here.

What to do ?

  • wear mostly natural compostable fibres with limited synthetic fibres, (used only for specialist clothing that doesnt need washing often).

Toxic Plastic?

plastic planktonAs we already know from this blog,tiny sea creatures, the bedrock of the food chain, ingest these micro plastics. You can see plankton hoovering up plastic here.  There is increasing evidence that this is not a healthy diet.

Why?

While some plastics are toxic (you can read up on poisons in synthetic fabric here) others are said to be non toxic. So the should pass through the digestive system without doing any damage?

Eating “non toxic” plastic is obviously unhealthy. It  has no nutritional value at all and a plastic based diet is  not good for general well being. But there are other, more insidious dangers.  These tiny plastic particles attract unpleasant chemicals called  persistent organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are a small set of toxic chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods and bio- accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals.

They “stick” to the plastic. Bottom feeders eat the plastic pellets and so the POPs enter the food chain. So even if the plastic particle is in itself non toxic the chemical attached are not.

A Dialogue ( from Green Plastics)

Achilles: As far as we know, it’s not toxic…

Tortoise: Aha!

Achilles: …but it can attract toxic materials. There was a study2 that showed that degraded plastic residues can attract and hold toxins like PCB and DDT up to one million times normal levels. The PCB’s and DDT’s are already in the environment, but are usually so diluted that they are not a significant risk. However, plastic residues concentrate these chemicals, until they can build up to toxic levels.

More

You can see all posts, reports and studies on micro plastics here

And read more about the problems with plastic here

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Dirty Beaches, Polluted Sea

Most plastics are oil derived and non biodegradable. Which means plastics last for decades, centuries possibly forever (read more here about plastic how it is made and the different types). We are using this everlasting product to make items that are used once and then discarded. Items that end up as litter.

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.

How Much Trash?

Upwards of 9 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year (at the going rate, there will be more plastic in the water than fish by 2050)

It has been estimated that around 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources and the remaining 20% is from ocean based sources. Greenpeace Report.

According to Stemming the Tide, a study released by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, 60 percent of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from the following countries;

  • China dumps an estimated 1.32 to 3.53 million tons of plastic which accounts for 30 percent of all of the plastic debris
  • Indonesia comes second with  0.48 and 1.29 million tons of plastic marine waste
  • Philippines in third place followed by Vietnam and then Sri Lanka.
  • You can read a good summary of this report here.

    Trash Vortexes Or The 5 Gyres

    Dotted around the world are  5 great trash vortexes. They are right out there in the middle of the sea and they are huge.   Vast expanses of debris  held in place by swirling underwater currents. Read more here
    See lots of pictures documenting plastic beach pollution here…

    Dirty Beaches

    Everyday tons of trash gets washed ashore. Many beaches look more like rubbish dumps than a place to go paddling which impacts on tourism and local businesses. Local authorities, industry and coastal communities spend approximately £14 million a year to clean up beach litter in England and Wales alone (Environment Agency, 2004).

    Dirty Sea Bed

    And that is the plastic that is washed up. In fact around 70 percent of discarded plastic sinks to the bottom. In the North Sea alone, Dutch scientists have found around 600,000 tonnes of plastic smothering the sea bed and the bottom feeders who live there.

    Poisoned Sea Creatures

    It is affects marine life in other ways. Here’s a troubling statistic “One-third of fish caught off the south-west coast of England have traces of plastic contamination from sources including sanitary products and carrier bags”. You can read more in the Plymouth University study, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
    Researchers warn that ” garbage can injure creatures like sea sponges and impair their ability to breathe and absorb food. Moreover, chemicals in plastic can have toxic effects and alter gas exchange on the seafloor.” (live science)

  • Microplastic Pollution

    Of course plastic breaks, tears and cracks. It weathers and sunlight makes it brittle, It falls apart – it degrades – but only into smaller pieces of plastic.

    This degrading process can go on indefinitely it seems. Particles of plastic of 20 microns in diameter (a width thinner than a human hair) have been found in the oceans and are being found in increasing amounts. As reported by Dr Richard Thompson at the University of Plymouth .

    Other tiny bits of plastic come from synthetic clothes which shed fibres when being washed.
    Exfoliating scrubs often contain tiny plastic beads which are washed off and washed out to sea.
    Even toothpaste can have added plastic.
    These tiny pieces of plastics are called micro plastics.
    They are being eaten by bottom feeders and are now entering the food chain.

  • You can read about micro plastics here,

  • Toxic plastic pellets

    Plastic particles in the sea also 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. Plastics have been shown to concentrate pollutants up to a million times their level in the surrounding seawater and then deliver them to the species that ingest them (Encyclopedia Brittanica). Bottom feeders eat the plastic pellets and so the POPs enter the food chain.

    Then there are the chemicals used to make plastic. Many of these are toxic and can leach out. Research is showing that chemicals absorbed by the plastic are transferred to the fish.

    Islands in the stream

    Floating plastic can carry animals and vegetation way beyond their natural habitat potentially leading to the introduction of invasive species into vulnerable habitats.

  • BoycottPeople have been dumping rubbish in the sea for centuries. What has changed is the nature of the rubbish. Using a non-biodegradable product with a lifespan of centuries to make disposable items is crazy. Let’s stop using plastic to make everlasting litter. And rather then wait for governments to act or the clean up bill get even bigger I invite you to join me in a plastic boycott. You can find loads of plastic free alternatives listed here on my blog.
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Persistant Organic Pollutants

I was under the impression that pops was some kind of horrid Yorkshire dish involving hot milk and bits of bread but this is not the case. Rather 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.

POPs stands for persistent organic pollutants, also classed as PBTs (Persistent, Bioaccumulative and Toxic) or TOMPs (Toxic Organic Micro Pollutants.)

  • Persistant because they are are resistant to natural biodegradation. They do not break down and can last for decades.
  • Pollutants because they are highly toxic, causing death, disease, and birth defects among humans and animals.

plastic in fishHow can you avoid them? You cant! They travel through the environment through the atmosphere (windbourne), the food web (by being eaten) and through the waterways by attaching themselves to particles in water. POPs released in one part of the world can be transported many hundreds of miles away from the original source. POPs have been discovered in remote regions where they have never been used, the middle of oceans and Antarctica.

Pops can enter the food chain at the most basic of levels. “Planktonic organisms are the first link for pollutant transfer in the pelagic system. Traditionally, primary producers, (all those organisms that are able to synthesise organic matter capturing the energy of the sunlight) such asphytoplankton have been considered as the initial step for transport of POPs into food webs. Recent studies, however, point out that the capacity of uptake of bacteria is an important route for POPs transportation via the microbial food chain. The microbial food chain is the link between microorganisms in the sea.” From GPA website.

Because POPs are not soluble in water but readily absorbed and retained in fatty tissue of animals, this leads to a process called Biomagnification, also known as bioamplification or biological magnification. This is, is the increase in concentration of a substance that occurs in a food chain as a consequence of:

Food chain in a swedish lake. From the bottom:...

Food chain in a swedish lake. From the bottom: freshwater shrimp, bleak, perch, northern pike, osprey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Persistence (can’t be broken down by environmental processes)
  • Food chain energetics
  • Low (or nonexistent) rate of internal degradation/excretion of the substance (often due to water-insolubility)

Which means as POPs pass up the food chain, they increase exponentially. For example lets say that each bit of plankton contains 1 POP. A worm eats 5 plankton so now it contain 5 POB, 5 worms are in turn is eaten by a fish (25) and 3 fish are caught by a fisherman (75). The higher up the food chain the more you absorb.

It is claimed that plastic particles in the sea attract POPs.

Related articles

Where Do Pops Come From

Most are created by humans in industrial processes, either intentionally or as byproducts.

Many POPs are currently or were in the past used as pesticides. Others are the result of industrial processes. Including plastic manufacture and disposal

In May 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme Governing Council (GC) began investigating POPs. and 2001 the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was formed to organise the severe restriction of their production, by the international community.

State parties to the Stockholm Convention on P...

State parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Italiano: Stati ratificanti della Convenzione di Stoccolma sugli inquinanti organici persistenti. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are related to the plastic industries

Dioxins

They are of concern because of their highly toxic potential.

Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body.

Their half-life in the body is estimated to be seven to eleven years.

In the environment, dioxins tend to accumulate in the food chain. The higher in the animal food chain one goes, the higher the concentration of dioxins.

Doixin is a known human carcinogen and the most potent synthetic carcinogen ever tested in laboratory animals. Find out lots more here.

Dioxins occur as by-products in the incineration of chlorine-containing substances such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride), in the chlorine bleaching of paper, and from natural sources such as volcanoes and forest fires, waste incineration, and backyard trash burning, and herbicide manufacturing. More on burning plastic here.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) compounds are used as additives in paint, carbonless copy paper, and plastics.

Of the 209 different types of PCBs, 13 exhibit a dioxin-like toxicity. Their persistence in the environment corresponds to the degree of chlorination, and half-lives can vary from 10 days to one-and-a-half years.

PCBs are toxic to fish, killing them at higher doses and causing spawning failures at lower doses. Research also links PCBs to reproductive failure and suppression of the immune system in various wild animals, such as seals and mink.

Read more about PCBs here.

And here are some more…

Aldrin is an organochlorine insecticide that was widely used until the 1970s, when it was banned in most countries.

Chlordane a pesticide,  It was sold in the United States from 1948 to 1988, both as a dust and an emulsified solution. It is now banned.

DDT, First synthesized in 1874, DDT’s insecticidal action was discovered by the Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller in 1939.  A worldwide ban was formalised under the Stockholm Convention, but its limited use in disease vector control continues to this day and remains controversial.

Dieldrin  an alternative to DDT, and a highly effective insecticide widely used during the 1950s to early 1970s. Long-

term exposure has proven toxic to a very wide range of animals including humans.It is now banned in most of the world.

Endrin  A pesticide. Currently, the use of endrin is banned in many countries.

Heptachlor was used as an insecticide. Animals exposed to Heptachlor epoxide during gestation and infancy are found to have changes in nervous system and immune function. Higher doses of Heptachlor when exposed to newborn animals caused decrease in body weight and death.

Hexachlorobenzene, a fungicide now banned globally under the Stockholm Convention

Mirex, is a chlorinated hydrocarbon that was commercialized as an insecticide and later banned because of its impact on the environment.

toxaphene is an insecticide. It is a mixture of closely related substances whose use is now banned in most of the world due to concerns of toxicity.

Since then, this list has generally been accepted to include such substances as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and certain brominated flame-retardants, as well as some organometallic compounds such as tributyltin (TBT).

Thanks to Wikipedia and the worldbank

Chemicals & Additives In Plastic

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. Reinforcing fibers for example make the base polymer stronger while man-made organic chemicals, such as phthalates are added to make plastic flexible, resilient and easier to handle.

These give the plastic an additional range of qualities. There are thousands of addatives used in making plastic.

Plastic additives

Include
Reinforcing fibers to make the base polymer stronger.  For example baron, carbon, fibrous minerals, glass, Kevlar all Increases tensile strength. Others increase flexibility, heat-deflection temperature (HDT) or help resists shrinkage and warpage.
Extender fillers such as calcium carbonate and silica, clay reduces material cost.
Conductive fillers means electromagnetic shielding property can be built into plastics, which are normally poor electrical conductors include  aluminum powders, carbon fiber, graphite Improves electrical and thermal conductivity.
Coupling agents such as Silanes, titanates  improve the bonding of the plastic matrix and the reinforcing fibres.
Plasticizers – man-made organic chemicals, such as phthalates added to make plastic flexible, resilient and easier to handle. Some are considered unsafe – read more here.
Stabilizers (halogen stabilizers, antioxidants, ultraviolet absorbers, and biological preservatives) to stop it breaking down over time>Protects from thermal and UV degradation (with carbon blacks).
Processing aids (ie lubricants to reduce the viscosity of the molten plastic and others)
Flame retardants Chlorine, bromine, phosphorous, metallic salts Reduces the occurrence and spread of combustion.
Peroxides
Anti-static agents can be used to attract moisture, reducing the build-up of static charge.
Colorants (pigments and dyes) Metal oxides, chromates, carbon blacks.
Blowing agents Gas, azo compounds, hydrazine derivatives Generates a cellular form to obtain a low-density

Concerns

As you can see that is a lot of additives. So many that  we do not know what they all are. Also 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.

Rather worryingly, some of the chemicals used in plastic seem to be mobile and can leach from the plastic product into the contents. For example from the plastic packaging wrapped round your cheese or the epoxy resin lining of your can of beans into your food. The jury is still out on wether this is dangerous or not but add that to a brown toast cancer scare and cheesy beans don’t look so tasty!

Halogenated plastics like PVC will, when burnt, release dioxin one of the most powerful carcinogens known.

More animals are being found with plastic in their stomachs having mistaken for food and microplastics are being ingested by bottom feeders and plankton. Some reports claim that chemicals from plastic are being absorbed by animals with ill effects.You can read more on microplastic here and read reports on animals eating plastic.

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.

More

Plastic Food 
What Are Chemicals?

Burning plastic in the home

Some feel my worrying about plastic in the home is taking it too far?  Disposables? Yes, they can see I ...
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Plastic Chemicals & Food

Plastic packed food is unappealing in many ways. For me the most immediate problem is the flavor, or lack of ...
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Endocrine disruption, fish & polyethylene

Early warning signs of endocrine disruption in adult fish from the ingestion of polyethylene with and without sorbed chemical pollutants from the marine ...
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Perfluorochemicals and plastic

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) are a family of man-made chemicals. They have been around since the 1950s. They include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; ...
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Phthalates.

are used as a plasticiser  used to make a material like PVC softer and more flexible. But they are also ...
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Endocrine System & Endocrine Disruptors

A few quotes on the endocrine system....... "Although we rarely think about them, the glands of the endocrine system and ...
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Antimony

Is a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemical - ie one that lasts a long time, accumulates in the food chain ...
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Persistant Organic Pollutants

I was under the impression that pops was some kind of horrid Yorkshire dish involving hot milk and bits of ...
Read More

Chemicals & Additives In Plastic

The first stage in plastic production, the polymerisation of raw material. Then substances such as fillers and chemicals (sometimes called ...
Read More

Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of manmade chemicals. They are oily liquids or solids, clear to yellow in color, ...
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PTFE Non stick plastic

When I was young and innocent, I knew nothing of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Well, it's not the kind of thing a ...
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PVC

 A white brittle plastic until you add plasticisers the most common being phthalates then it becomes soft and flexible. PVC is ...
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What’s in a PET bottle?

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Tin Cans, Plastic Liners & Health

So you think, no that you've given up plastic but at least you can buy stuff in tins. At least ...
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BPA

Bisphenol A or BPA is it is known to its chums is used in some thermal paper products such as till receipts. the ...
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Dioxins & Burning plastic

So, is it safe to burn plastic? Well most plastics don't  burn easily - it melts and bubbles.  It will burn eventually ...
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Everlasting Litter

Because plastic is so cheap we use it for just about everything. The world’s annual consumption of plastic materials has increased from around 5 million tonnes in the 1950s to nearly 100 million tonnes today. (WRAP) and much of that has been used to make disposable packaging and products. It is cheaper to give away a new cup every time then to collect and wash re-useables. Supermarkets can afford to give out bags so that shoppers need not limit their purchases. Fast food outlets can serve food to go in throwaway containers with one use cutlery.

in the UK  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)

Because plastic is a synthetic substance, it doesn’t biodegrade. While every other thing on the planet is decomposing most plastic remains unchanged.

Here’s how long it takes for some commonly used natural products to biodegrade, when they are scattered about as litter:

Paper ~ 2-5 months
Cotton rags ~ 1-5 month
Natural fiber rope ~ 3-14 months
Orange peel ~6 months
Wool socks ~1 to 5 years
Leather shoes ~25 to 40 years
Tin cans ~ 50 to 100 years

But because plastic  is man-made, the natural enzymes and the micro organisms responsible for breaking down organic substances do not recognize most plastics – whether they are derived from oil or plants. Find out more here.

Which means it cannot be composted, or left to rot where it is dropped, like organic rubbish.

Plastic Litter

Every bit of plastic litter HAS TO BE PICKED UP and specially disposed of, which doesn’t always happen, is expensive to do and each disposal method has its drawbacks. Burning plastic can release extremely toxic chemicals so has to be done with care, put it in landfills and it just sits there and recycling is not always an option nor is it always cost-effective.

Worse still 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. Because it is made out of plastic, and has a life span of decades, it is now everlasting litter.  Not suprisingly plastic litter is increasing exponentially and with dreadful consequences.

Visit our FB  gallery of world-wide plastic pollution to see more.

 

 



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Wasting away – how much rubbish do we create?

Whats new in the bin – check back here for updated rubbish factoids.

“Discarding many human-made items, from plastic straws to nuclear waste to nail polish, rank as events at the same space-time scale as massive earthquakes and global climate change. Since the 1930′s, humans have been making geological garbage.”
read whole article

Plastic Stats

Fibres, Fabrics & Clothing – stats & info

Fibres are short fine hairs. Fibres can be can be natural, synthetic or chemically produced hybrid called regenerated fibres. Fibres ...
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Nappies, tampons and wet wipes – dirty!

Nappies The liner or topsheet - made of the plastic polymer polypropylene - sits next to the baby's skin and ...
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Disposing Of Plastic

In this post you can read about the many ways we dispose of plastic. Most plastics are made from oil ...
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Reports & Statistics Index

Post Index Wasting Away - how much rubbish do we create globally Definitions You can find definitions, clarifications and explanations here ...
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Food Waste

Almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away ...
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Plastic Trash By Country

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Weee / Electronic Waste

 Between now and the end of 2020, WRAP estimates that electronic products purchased in the UK will total around 10 ...
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Latest waste stats

A staggering eight million metric tones of  are discharged into the oceans each year from the world’s 192 coastal countries, according to an international study published in the journal Science in February, which was based on 2010 data.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-12-spanish-fishermen-sea-bounty-plastic.html#jCp

April 18, 2008 and the Ocean Conservancy released a report based on their beach cleanup efforts. On one day 380000 volunteers picked up six million pounds of rubbish data sheets ahowing rubbish break down by type location and source are available to download

Each year 400,000 tonnes of carpet waste is buried in UK landfill
*Based on the Carpet Recycling UK annual survey in 2013 which collected self-reported figures from carpet recyclers throughout the UK and an estimate of incineration of carpets by local authorities.

Carpets are made from natural and synthetic fibres, which still have a value once the carpet is no longer wanted; they can be used in a wide range of applications from sports surfaces to insulation.

Carpet Recycling UK is a not for profit membership association working to increase the recycling of carpet waste across the UK

The 2.5 billion synthetic cups thrown away in Britain every year are made from a mixture of materials which prevents them from being recycled alongside paper and cardboard. Daily Mail

A report conducted jointly by the Alliance for Environmental Innovation and Starbucks found that 1.9 billion cups were used by Starbucks in 2000.[5] In 2006, Starbucks reported that this figure had grown to 2.3 billion cups for use at their stores.[6]

http://sustainabilityissexy.com/facts.ht…

At the University of Washington, a college of roughly 42 thousand students, the Housing and Food Services Department estimates that 5000 paper coffee cups are thrown away every school day.
http://sustainabilityissexy.com/facts.ht…

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Plastic Trash By Country

Statistics can be wobbly and there will be discrepancies between reports but even bearing that in mind it is obvious we are making a great deal of plastic rubbish most of which we are not recycling. And our use of plastic is increasing every year.

Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic have been discarded.

During the first year, sales of Coca-Cola averaged nine drinks a day, adding up to total sales for that year of $50. Today, products of The Coca-Cola Company are consumed at the rate of more than 1.8 billion drinks per day.FAQs: The Coca-Cola Company

U.K.

Each UK household produces over 1 tonne of rubbish annually, amounting to about 31 million tonnes for the UK each year.

How much of the is plastic? And how much is recycled?

In October 2006 when I started my plastic boycott I saved all my plastic for a week. The amounts of waste we, a fairly green couple, produced was worrying.

British consumers got through nine billion pints of milk last year. 90% of that milk was bought in a plastic container.

2015 and Recycle now states the average UK household uses 480 plastic bottles a year but only recycles 270 of them – meaning nearly half (44%) are NOT put in the recycling.

Wrap state

Around 40% of plastic is used in packaging and the UK generates around 2.4 million tonnes per year of packaging waste. Of this, around 1.7 million tonnes is from households.

In the UK we currently recycle around 50% of plastic bottles and just 12-15% of mixed plastics, so there is still progress to be made.
The Guardian writes Of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain in 2015 only 500,000 tonnes was recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey. 

Recycle More  estimate that nearly 1.2 million tonnes of plastics packaging are consumed by households in the UK (source:recoup)
From this 1.2 million tonnes, it is reported that 440,401 tonnes is collected for recycling – an overall 37% recycling rate (source:recoup)

The Recycling Guide states that most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.

  • They also claim that
  • The use of plastic in Western Europe is growing about 4% each year.
  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

2011 Government Statistics for the UK – rather different story – but still not good.

Plastic 2,515,809 Total packaging waste arising (tonnes) 609,910 Total recovered/recyled (tonnes) 22.5 EU Target (%) 24.2 Recovery/recycling rate (%)

Recoup

RECycling Of Used Plastics Limited (RECOUP) is a registered charity and not-for-profit member based organisation. RECOUP works in collaboration with all stakeholders to promote, develop, stimulate and increase the levels of plastics recycling within the UK.

Their latest survey can be downloaded here http://www.recoup.org/p/229/uk-household-plastics-collection-survey-2016

Some Solutions

Find plastic free products here

World

See what everyone else is throwing away. This is only the briefest of outlines to illustrate the scale of the problem. It doesn’t matter who throws more but that we all get on cleaning our own back yards.


Planet Trash – A page of images showing  plastic pollution the world over plus one of the biggest list of anti plastic groups on Facebook.
You can find a full list of places featured here.

Europe

Plastics consumption is growing about 4% every year in western Europe.

We produce and use 20 times more plastic today than we did 50 years ago!

America

In 2010, Americans created  31 million tons of plastic waste. It consisted of

  • 14 million tons of containers and packaging,
  • 11 million tons as durable goods, such as appliances,
  • 7 million tons as non-durable goods, for example plates and cups.

(ermmm that makes 32million tons?…)

Only 8 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2010 was recovered for recycling.

  • Only 12% of bags, sacks, and wraps were recycled

These figures are from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency who go on to note

“The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 8 percent, or 2.4 million tons in 2010. However, the recycling rate for some plastics is much higher, for example in 2010, 28 percent of HDPE bottles and 29 percent of PET bottles and jars were recycled”.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans bought a total of 31.2 billion liters of water in 2006, Most of this water was sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, requiring nearly 900,000 tons of the plastic and more than 106 billion megajoules of energy.

California

Californias governing body have this to say “In the United States, consumers use 100 billion plastic bags annually, but fewer than 5 percent of plastic bags are recycled, which means they eventually end up in landfills, open spaces, or waterways.

  • Californians use an estimated 12 billion plastic bags annually. That’s almost 400 bags per second.
  • In California, approximately 247 million pounds—that’s 24 billion bags!—end up in landfills every year.
  • California spends approximately $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags. Public agencies in California spend more than $300 million annually for litter abatement.”

25 MILLION???? ON BAGS???

 13 billion plastic carrier bags are used in the UK each year. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year.

People

This fantastic collection of photos shows what people eat in a week the world over. Humbling? yes…but also check out the packaging! Way to go Japan!

Problems

The problem with plastic waste,  is that plastic doesn’t  biodegrade. There are no natural processes in place that can absorb plastic back into the biological cycle. Drop it and leave it, as  with an apple core say, and rather than rot away, it stays there…for decades, maybe centuries, possibly for ever.

So it has to be specially disposed of. It has to be collected up and specially treated. Either burnt or buried or, in very small amounts, recycled.

And we are using this product to make one use throwaway items.

The result? Everlasting litter! That’s just dumb.

Yet simply by saying no to unneccessary plastic, you can cut your pile of trash almost completely.

More

Find other rubbish statistics here

Cut Your Trash

 

Find plastic free products and lifestyle hacks here

Plastic Is Rubbish–  group, join, share, rant, post. A resource for plastic less living. As the interest in zero waste and plastic free living grows we need a space to pool resources  – especially in the U.K. where we don’t have bulk stores and finding unpackaged produce is so much harder. I hope that people will use it to share plastic free info and lifestyle hacks. Join us here.