Our Propensity to Proliferate Plastic

July 19th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Our Propensity to Proliferate Plastic

ocean garbagePlastic pollution has become a serious problem. 90% of floating ocean trash is plastic and 80% of plastic pollution that enters the ocean originates from land. Common sources include: recreational beach users, people who drop litter on sidewalks and streets, plastics manufacturers and transporters, illegal dumping, and areas with inadequate trash receptacles. All land-based plastic pollution has the potential to become ocean pollution.

The North Pacific Gyre, an area of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Japan, is an accumulation zone (gyre means convergence of currents) for plastic pollution said to be at least twice the size of Texas. The North Pacific Gyre represents the largest gyre on Earth and contains roughly 3.5 million tons of trash. In this part of the ocean, studies from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation have shown that plastic fragments outnumber ooplankton 40 to 1!

The Gyre resembles a plastic soup, where tiny pieces of plastic are not just floating at the surface of the ocean but are also suspended in the water column. This makes any cleanup effort incredibly complicated and that’s why many scientists are urging people to stop the plastic from its source: You, as the average consumer.

The following statistics provide examples of the scope of the plastic pollution plague:

– 60,000 plastic bags are discarded in the US every 5 seconds (Chris Jordan, 2010)

– It is estimated that an average individual uses 130 plastic bags per year (Earth Resource, 2010)

– 2 million plastic beverage bottles are used in the US every 5 minutes (Chris Jordan, 2010)

– 426,000 cell phones are discarded in the US every day (Chris Jordan, 2010)

– 1 million plastic cups are used just on airline flights in the US every 6 hours (Chris Jordan, 2010).

These statistics are staggering! When it comes to plastic, we must be much more mindful. Just because we don’t see a problem . . . doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there. The solution is far less about cleaning up the mess that has already been created (although that would be wonderful – but not likely), than preventing the daily onslaught of more and more plastic pollution. Even if everyone cuts back just a little, it can make a significant difference.

Plastic has become our choice because it appears cheap, easy and convenient. The truth is that it is none of those.