Like all of us, I was born in the plastic era. I was literally bombarded with plastic. All my toys, my records, my Polaroid, my pink straws and my scooby strings were plastic. When I was a little girl, people just did not care about environment and plastic was probably the grooviest invention that we could think of. Let’s admit it: I was wild over cellulose acetate. I simply loved the shiny look, the soft touch and the fresh synthetic smell. The first thing I did as I unwrapped my new doll was sniffing at her chubby cheeks. Little did I know that plastic use was not as innocent as it seems. I was unaware that it would eventually become so destructive for our planet.
Decades after the golden age, our oceans are swamped by gigantic plastic soups. More than 5 trillion plastic bits are actually bobbing along our waters. But that’s not all: marine animals are feeding on our plastic waste and most of them are dying from suffocation, stomachs bulging with plastic pieces, and from alterations caused by the material which ends up entangled out and inside animals’ bodies. Nature takes somehow revenge when humans (remember, those arrogant creatures on the top of the food chain!) start eating fish fed with plastic since birth. What have we done to our ecosystem? We perhaps thought that all our hazardous filth would disappear into thin air.
We have become so dependent on plastic that our modern society would not function properly without it. Think of a plastic free world. We would probably be back to the Middle Ages. Everything would be wooden, metallic, organic. There would be no cell phones, no TV, no PC, no fridge, no cars, no clothes, no… As a matter of fact, I really cannot figure what would still be left around me. This thing has not been around for so long though. Bakelite which was the first synthetic plastic was invented in 1907 by Belgian-born Leo Baekeland. Plastic is only a little more than a century old but has truly pervaded every area of our lives. It appeared as a miracle substance, hard-wearing but disposable, convenient but invasive. Plastic is the ultimate symbol of our mass consumption society. We buy and sell it every day.
Top 20 fun and not-so-fun facts about plastic
- More than 2,515,600,000,000 plastic bags have been produced this year worldwide, up to now and the number is constantly growing.
- Less than 5 % plastic bags are actually recycled.
- In the North Pacific Ocean, there are 6 times more plastic debris than plankton.
- About 500 billion plastic bags are used every year in the world.
- Plastic packaging stands for 39% of the total European plastics market and 62% of the plastic waste of the European Union each year.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California, has become the largest ocean garbage site in the world. Twice the size of the State of Texas, this massive trash patch is sadly not the only one. The North Atlantic Garbage Patch is hundreds kilometers long and drawing off 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch was discovered in 2010. In fact, there are trash vortices in the five major oceans.
- 25,000 plastic bottles are equal to one metric ton.
- If we recycle 1 ton of plastic bottles, we are saving 1.5 ton of carbon.
- A fleece jacket can be made out of 25 recycled plastic bottles.
- One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed each year because of microplastic.
- 44 % of all seabird species, 22 % of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing number of fish species have been listed with plastic in or around their bodies.
- It takes up to 1000 years for plastic to decompose.
- Each year, with all the discarded plastic, we could circle the Earth four times.
- Every bit of plastic that has been manufactured one day, is still around, under one form or another (let alone the amounts that have been incinerated).
- 160,000 plastic bags are used every second.
- Nearly 50 % of plastic waste in the European Union is still landfilled.
- In half a century, global plastic production has increased from 1.5 million tons per year in 1950 to 245 million tons in 2008.
- A few months ago, the European Commission has approved to cut European plastic bags use. By 2019, all European countries will either adopt mandatory pricing for plastic bags or decide to greatly reduce the number of bags used per person (from 191 now to 90 by 2019 and 40 in 2025).
- Since 2011, Plastic Free July raises awareness about our daily use of plastic and urges people to cut down on single-use plastic during the month of July. It all started in Perth, Australia.
- Why not join the movement? I just did. All you need to do is say: yes, I’m going plastic free in July!