There is a car in a field not far from here rusting away, the first time I saw it was 15 years ago, it is now almost completely reclaimed by the earth. The few items I recognize and are still in near perfect shape are all made of plastic. My Grandkids Great Grandkids will be able to see them in that exact spot as well.
For many of us, recycling of materials has been ingrained into our belief systems, metals, plastics, wood, glass, and paper. Most of us have been to a recycling center, some are large and accept all materials, others specialize in one type. Black plastic garbage bags stuffed like a wood tick are often seen in trailers, the back of pickup trucks and being hauled by others on bicycles or grocery carts. All are headed in the same direction, towards the cash-in place, it is depended upon for supplemental income for many people.
Plastic is, as we all know, a widely used product in almost everything that we use. Being flexible, and lightweight it makes a perfect container for any liquid, toxic or benign substances. Buckets, and Automotive Parts. Plastic may also be recycled, however, it cannot be re-used eternally as it has its limits. Some of the material is re-recyclable up to 9 times, others no more than 1-2 and still there are some that not re-usable at all, except to be re-purposed in its original state. During the year of 2008 2.1 million tons of the waste was recycled, it accounts for a grand total of 6.8% of the total generated in the United States during that year. During 2015 the picture improved, 9.1% of that year’s total was recycled, 15.5% was used as fuel to produce energy, and 75%, unfortunately, ended up in landfills. Three years later, in 2018, things are improving, currently, 27% of plastic bottles are being recycled.
Oil, 1.6 million barrels of the non-renewable is used just to produce plastic water bottles, 75% as mentioned above makes its way to landfills. Plastic assemblies take far too long to decompose, up to 1.000 years in a solid waste facility, bottles will take at least 450 years. Bags, (102.1 billion each year are used) you know like the ones we use every day and are seen throughout the world blowing in the wind, holding our household waste, and notoriously used for picking up pet waste will endure for 10-1000 years left undisturbed in a landfill. Eighteen billion disposable diapers are tossed in the receptacles every year, each and everyone will take in the range of 250-500 years to decompose. We all love babies, however, it’s hard to love the 6,000 disposable diapers each one uses and disposes of from birth until the age of two and one-half years, that’s two tons of either incinerated or buried plastic. 15 billion of the handy disposables are used each year in the U.S.A. alone, equalling 2-1/2 million tons of waste, Canada disposes of 1.5 billion of them, not in weight but in individual units.
Plastic and as it is in the Ocean:
* One out of ten items collected during the International Coastal Cleanup in 2009 was a plastic bag.
* Eight million metric tons, (one metric ton equals 2,204.62 pounds) finds its way into our oceans every year. Note the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Link)
* Plastic wastes in our Oceans are responsible for the deaths of up to 1,000,000 sea animals annually.
* Micro-Plastics are what remains after the waste breaks down, it is found in nearly every animal on earth and has recently been discovered in human waste. There is no idea of the long-term health effects of the beads circulating in our bodies.
* Multiply by 10 the number of plastics currently in our Oceans today, by the year 2020 that is how much will be there, and 2050 there will be more plastic in our Seas than fish.
* One estimate by the scientific journal Plos One is that 5 trillion, (one trillion is one billion billion) pieces of plastic weighing in excess of 250,000 metric tons is circulating right now in the Oceans of the world, and it is increasing daily.
The Economy is impacted as well:
* A single person uses one ton (2,000 pounds) of oil every two months, and by recycling one ton of that waste the energy use of two people for one year will be saved.
* Re-Cycling plastic reduces energy use by 66% in relation to processing new materials.
* A savings of 1,000-2,000 gallons of Gasoline is realized by re-using one ton of the not so disposable waste.
* The resell value of recycled bags is two times the production costs.
* More than 1700 business organizations in the U.S. alone are engaged in the re-use of plastic items of all kinds.
* 80% of us have access to at least one recycling program.
* Two million tons of scrap plastic, $810 million dollars worth is shipped from the U.S. yearly.
* Few bottles are recycled, two huge users (Coco-Cola and Nestle’s) average just 6.5%.
* These are sobering facts when realizing the global production of plastic increased from 225 million tons to 311 million tons, from the years 2004-2014.
We must get a handle on all of this, plastic is destroying our world. Some people believe there may have been advanced civilizations millions of years ago preceding us on our planet. (I don’t count that as one of my beliefs but it’s interesting to read about.) If there was perhaps Archaeologists should be looking for ancient micro-beads and buried plastic bottles, I suspect it may have poisoned more civilizations than just the one we currently refer to as being our modern world.
China until January 1, 2018, was the waste collector of the world, after that date the acceptance of the waste of the world has been stopped. Excessive amounts of it were not the main concern, what was coming with the stuff was. The authorities responsible for the programs cited when some of the containers were opened or burst open during processing, toxic material spewed forth. China’s main concern is the health implications experienced by the people employed in the industry. It’s a nasty business, one of which they have no interest in partaking of any longer.
(Link to my blog on China’s decision to stop collecting the trash of the world).
What in the World can be done?
There is a bunch of problems listed because there is a bunch of plastic produced, it is such a universally useful commodity. Plastic is used for many products from sewer piping to sanitary equipment in clean rooms. Being on that huge of a scale it impacts every Country, City and Creature (not only human) on our planet it is of a planetary concern.
What are some solutions?
* Corporate responsibility tops the list from my perspective, the companies producing and the final users should be regulated to deal with all of the waste. A deposit on each piece of plastic produced, much like the soft drink industry was tasked with during the pre-1980’s years.
* Developing Countries must be pressured into developing trash collection policies, you are reading it correctly, many third world countries have no garbage collection, most of the trash they produce is thrown into waterways. The garbage that is not in the water is tossed into ditches, ravines, and other low lying areas to be swept away during heavy rain, normally ending up in our Oceans.
* Governments need to step up to the plate and develop scientific projects to determine uses for recycled plastics, how to make them bio-degradable, and finding new raw materials that are able to be re-used infinitely or those that will break down in an acceptable amount of time.
* The Citizens of the world need to be made aware of the impact these handy made for humanity items have on our environment, health, and the longevity of our home planet.
(Follow this Link to my blog on what some States are doing to combat plastic pollution)
Our focus should be on saving the only planet in our known cosmos that is custom made to support life, dreaming of blasting off to Mars and building another one is a fools folly. Invest whatever energy, resources, and knowledge we have into making sure our planet is able to sustain life for thousands of years into the future, it must be the goal.\
Soiling our nest is a trait shared by no other species other than humans, picking up after ourselves would go a long way. Enforcing littering laws, and making the fines so outrageous for illegal dumping works as well. Free day at the dumps would encourage illegal dumpers to use the landfills, at least the plastic would be in a contained area.
During the flu season last year a frustrated nurse in Florida made a statement that went viral, perhaps you saw it, so many people were getting sick she declared on national television, “For Gods sake people, wash your hands to stop the spread of germs,” The statement “For Gods sake people just pick up after yourself, control your waste stream.” may be useful in this situation.
Plastic waste is a big problem and it is growing, there are times when I’m not sure if it’s the products that are the problem. Awareness of the issues may be the biggest hindrance in dealing with the stuff, some people are unaware of the Garbage Patch, Whales dying from eating plastic, and how it is now invading our human bodies on a global scale.
Thanks for reading, now share this blog on all platforms, Plastic Pollution is far too important to ignore. Thanks again.
Jacques Lebec Natural Self Reliance