During my birthday celebrations this year I was amazed by my friends and family, they all know I'm in to eco-friendly alternatives and not a fan of plastic. Although I have never explicitly shared my feelings towards plastic they know from my business 'Collingwood Ecoware' how I feel. What amazes me the most is how much they care about my lifestyle and support me without knowing the reasons behind those choices. My birthday presents were thoughtful, sustainable gifts! No plastic! I also noticed whenever we were out for drinks numerous friends and family members would refuse plastic straws without me saying anything. It occurred to me how easy it was for them to make these small changes all because they care about me. Similarly, I make these small changes because I care about the earth. I'm not saying my friends and family care about me more than they care about the earth, I just don't think they have ever read or heard about the true implications of plastic and to be honest I don't blame them, the last thing you want to do when finishing work is pick up a book about plastic pollution. This all made me realise, that people do care… But sometimes it's easier to do things for others than for ourselves. That being said, I thought I'd share some interesting, but short, facts about plastic - because I understand we don't all have time to dig deep to find the truth. I hope that others can then make choices on what they learn, not for themselves; but for the planet and our marine life.
What is Plastic?
'Plastic' as a word literally means pliable and easily shaped, although the term now generally covers all polymer materials… Even though this isn't necessarily correct. 'Polymers' are made of long chains of molecules. Plastics, as we know them, are generally made from petroleum and other fossil fuels. The word 'plastic' was first introduced in 1925…
History of Plastic
In 1907 Leo Henrik Baekland made the first synthetic plastic i.e no natural chemicals whatsoever. During World War II plastic was starting to be used in the military for parachutes, ropes, armour and more. Yet plastic wasn't commonly used in everyday life until post war - around 1950. It didn't take long for plastic to start replacing glass and ceramics, of course everyone was amazed that the material was strong enough not to break when dropped and seemingly lasted forever... what at first seemed like a great selling point is now one of the biggest issues with plastic.
Plastic Lasting Forever
It is said that every piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists today! Scientists predict it will take 1000 years for plastic to biodegrade, how they found this number I don't know, as all plastics are different - made with various synthetic compounds. We also don't know if it will take 1000 years (or more) because it hasn't existed for that long.
The Issues with Plastic
There are so many plastic issues it's hard to choose which ones to discuss. You might have heard of the term 'BPA' in recent years. It has been a major concern in the U.S, with research suggesting BPA (bisphenol A) was seeping from plastic containers in to our foods and drinks. It was discovered that BPA can cause health problems for both adults and children. The U.S have since stopped the use of BPA in plastic baby bottles, but BPA is still used in lots of other plastic containers.
Another concern is the plastic found in most clothing. Every time you wash your clothes in the washing machine, small particles of plastic are released in to the water - ending up in our oceans. This is effecting our food chain as small fish eat plastic particles, bigger fish eat small fish and eventually humans consuming fish full of plastic particles.
Then we consider the amount of single use plastic items such as carrier bags, straws and bottles that end up in the ocean. This is a real threat to marine life, as animals get tangled in plastic, or worse, if they ingest plastic it can become lodged in their stomach, quenching their hunger and unable to pass the plastic as waste these animals eventually starve to death.
Future of Plastic
If we continue to produce the same amount of plastic each year, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish in just 50 years!! We will continue to kill animals and continue to pollute every corner of the earth…
The future is a funny thing because it is so changeable. The effects of plastic pollution are extremely worrying but WE CAN change the future. The question is… Are you willing to make small changes to save the planet?