Monday, January 23, 2017

Scary truth about PLASTIC: The ocean is a plastic soup

The ocean is a plastic soup. Plastic is derived from synthetic materials, most commonly produced from petrochemicals, and we have become devastatingly dependent on this "material", and the environment is reaping this destruction. "In some cases, small amounts of those chemicals can remain trapped in the product unless suitable processing is employed. For example, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognized vinyl chloride, the precursor to PVC, as a human carcinogen" according to McRandle of "Plastic Water Bottles". National Geographic. BPA in plastic has been argued to be an estrogen-like endocrine disruptor that may leach into food (McRandle, 2004.) "The very chemical bonds that make them so durable tend to make them resistant to most natural processes of degradation."
In fact, what happens to a lot of plastic is that it drifts from landfills and populated areas into the water ways. The documentary Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch shows you footage of their own discovery of what plastic does from netting entangling coral reefs to pieces of plastic eaten by seabirds. In the documentary, the research states that often the people that use netting for fish will leave the net in the ocean. In one instance, one sperm whale found in California in 2008 died because it ingested 22.2 kilos of plastic in its lifetime. 

Because plastic is relatively low cost, "easy" to manufacture, versatile, and resistant to water, plastics are highly valued by people. According to Andrady of "Applications and societal benefits of plastics" says "packaging beverages in PET plastic rather than glass or metal is estimated to save 52% in transportation energy". While this may be the case, I am advocating for a an entire shift away from pre-packaged beverages and things altogether. Yes, that sounds like I do not want to buy anything at all, and that sounds very strange to people to imagine a world where things aren't wrapped or packaged, or that things wouldn't exist at all. That is the concern for people.

According to The World Counts, global plastic waste has created a gigantic “plastic soup” the size of Russia in the Pacific of up to 15 million square kilometers. In 10 years, this amount will double. This year alone, we will be producing 5 trillion plastic bags, equating to 160,000 every second. All of us are guilty of this plastic convenient bag. But for the last 6 years I have used cloth bags every time I go to the grocery store so I'm not using plastic grocery bags. Of course when there is an occasional plastic bag that ends up at the house, I use it for the bathroom trash (I may do a video or a post on what I do with plastic bags in the future.)

Even on my behalf, I have limited the amount of trash and waste I produce and throw away. For years I saved plastics and took them to the recycling place, but realized: this is only adding to the environmental degradation--it's fueling the fire, so to speak. I save cardboard boxes to burn later, I save glass bottles, and other things so I'm not throwing them away. I realize though that I'm surrounding myself in trash and waste as to avoid adding to it to be dumped elsewhere.

This is a consumer culture, thus it is a trash culture too. There are small and large scale solutions, and all we have to do is imagine we can do it because humans are very good at imagining the future and creating what we want to see. I believe that we can abolish the plastic industry and completely change the way we make everything. It is a matter of seeing the problem, because especially in the case of trash and waste, if someone picks up our trash to take it to a landfill, we are not aware of the devastation we are doing ourselves. We don't watch our trash get taken to a landfill and watch our own trash get tossed and parts move with the end, and things end up in the ocean. If we see the problem, we will want to fix it.
I have mentioned this before in several posts: that instead of logging trees and clear cutting forests for carbon materials like box, loose leaf paper, and many other things, we can use hemp or bamboo instead because they are low impact materials. This can be said for plastic as well, by replacing plastic with hemp fibers.

People think because bottled water exists, that somehow it's better than tap water (although I find that tap water tastes like bleach, I still drink it instead of bottled water.) But, more people are buying different beverages in plastic bottles, and of course when you give people so many options, they help these corporations get rich.
Once again, individual solutions are good, but there will need to be large scale change that requires corporations to refuse buying and using plastic while completely changing the way they package items. Or even better, these corporations realize that what they produce and sell is meaningless to life, adds to the trash and waste of the world, and realize that they only produce things to make money instead of creating everlasting change. Actually, the large corporations need to be held accountable for all the unhealthy food and beverage options and the waste that exists in the world--we cannot blame people for their own mindless gluttony because it's the rich that are exploiting that notion of people.
There are many micro and individual solutions, like Sweet, a company that takes travelers to destinations like Mexico, that they call 'gaycations' to clean up the environment and do many community service projects during their stay. I found that to be interesting and mindful, so I recommend watching the full video here for some inspiration.


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