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We live in a plastic world. Most items we use every day are made from plastic — food containers, grocery bags, car bumpers, trash bags, athletic equipment, toys, and countless other items.
The problem of plastic pollution in our world is growing at an alarming pace. Once it’s broken down into smaller pieces, plastic is extremely easy to hide in the ocean and land and nearly impossible to remove.
In this blog, let’s shine some light on unknown facts about plastic that’ll make us sit up and take notice.
Currently, we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic every year— a figure that’s almost equivalent to the total weight of all humans on earth. And only half of the produced plastic is designed to be recycled.
The problem with plastics is that once made, they can’t be destroyed. They can only be melted down and remade but when that isn’t possible with all types of plastics, it raises the question of the level of plastic wastage in our world.
Only certain plastic items can be recycled and when we recycle those plastics that aren’t supposed to be recycled, it can result in horrendous results.
Plastic bags, for example, contain something called plasticizer, which is a chemical that is supposed to make the bags flexible. But plasticizers are toxic and leech out toxic chemicals when the bags get hot.
The same thing goes for straws and coffee-cup lids. Those things are not recyclable because the chemicals in plastic that are supposed to make them flexible are also toxic, and when you recycle them, they could leach out.
Food residues on plastic are a big challenge in recycling. When consumers put food on or in plastic containers, they sometimes don’t clean the containers thoroughly enough. This feeds into a bigger problem: food residues on the plastic contaminate other plastics, which can’t be recycled.
We tend to think of recycling as a good thing because we are told that recycling saves energy and reduces pollution. But recycling is not free.
For each recycled item, virgin material is added to the mix. Because recycled plastics degrade in quality, the additional virgin material helps to add more sturdiness and flexibility to the recycled plastic and improve its quality — at par with market standards.
So recycling is not saving energy or reducing pollution, it is creating new energy- and pollution-intensive products. Those products, in turn, must be disposed of at the end of their useful life.
According to statistics published by National Geographic, by 2050, virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic. With two garbage trucks’ worth of plastic entering the oceans every minute, it’s causing serious harm to aquatic life.
Plastic breaks into small pieces that animals mistake for food. Fish, for example, often mistake plastic bags and other floating plastic for worms. When they eat them, the plastic blocks their stomachs and causes them to suffocate. And seabirds that eat plastic-choked fish often get swallowed themselves and drown.
Whales sometimes swallow enough plastic to float up, then die of starvation. This would soon pollute the entire food chain and lead to severe health complications in living organisms everywhere.
In a shocking stat published by the Guardian, it’s found that one million water bottles are purchased every single minute around the world!
That’s a lot of bottles, and it’s a lot of plastic.
Plastic is durable and inexpensive because it’s designed to be thrown out. But plastic packaging isn’t biodegradable and takes centuries to break down.
These same plastic bottles slowly release toxic chemicals that contaminate soil, water, and food.
Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is the purest form of plastic and there are several other plastic types apart from PET.
For example, the food packaging industry uses three basic types of plastic. The first is PET — made from sugar. PET bottles can be recycled and reused hundreds of times. The second type, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, makes food containers like yogurt cups. This type can’t be recycled. The third type is polystyrene or PS, used to make disposable plates and cups and can’t be recycled.
Unlike PET, which is virtually pure, they are mixtures of different chemicals in corn-based plastics and other low-grade ones, making it hard to recycle.
There are countless ways we touch plastic today. We select it at the grocery store, carry it around in bags, put it in our cars and homes, wear it on our skin, and carry it with us everywhere. Unfortunately, we are wrecking our ecosystems and poisoning ourselves in the process.
If you want to make an impact around you, then join our team of Plastic Collectors spread around the world now.