Plastic is an epidemic. Single use plastics that we routinely use such as plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags are the cause of this epidemic. These single use items often end up in the rubbish and are having a huge impact on our earth. Plastic statistics are a little scary when you dive into them.
We spend over $385 million each year on bottled water. But the real cost of bottled water is in the production. The whole process of producing plastic bottles has an impact on the environment. Australia’s use of bottled water generates 60,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year through the bottles’ production, shipping and storage. This is equivalent to emissions from 13,000 cars every year.
Crude oil is used in the manufacture of plastic bottles, the total amount of energy required is the same as filling a quarter of a plastic bottle with crude oil. Water is also used in the process; three litres of water are needed to produce one litre of bottled water. Most of these bottles end up in landfills because for every six plastic bottles bought only one is recycled. It is not just plastic bottles.
We use 3.92 billion plastic bags a year, that’s over 10 million new bags being used every day. We dump over 7000 bags into landfills every minute. Plastic bags take 1000 years to degrade so they are accumulating in our environment at a staggering rate. They are filling up our landfills but they are not saying there, out of sight. They are being blown into our bush and our water streams and being carried into our oceans.
The oceans are filled with eight million tons of rubbish, which floats along with the ocean currents and accumulates into five garbage islands that swirl around the world’s major ocean current systems. These garbage patches are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are mostly made up of tiny bits of plastic called microplastics, as most plastics do not wear down, they simply break up into microscopic pieces of plastic.
There are 5.25 trillion pieces of these tiny bits of plastic swirling in the ocean, covering over 40% of the surface of the sea. Our oceans are becoming a plastic soup and our sea life is choking on its content.
Turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, the bags then block their stomach and they starve to death. Sea birds mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs and feed them to their chicks. Marine mammals are becoming entangled in abandoned plastic fishing nets. Plastic kills 1.5 million marine animals each year. We can change this.
After reading these statistics, it is easy to feel overwhelmed especially as there are so many demands made on us in our daily lives; it is sometimes difficult to know where or whom needs the most help. But sometimes all it takes is one little step or one change in habit. And if everyone in the world made a couple of changes the plastic epidemic would be greatly reduced. Some of the changes in habit can be remembering to take a re-usable bag to the supermarket and a re-usable cup to the coffee shop. Taking your metal or glass reusable bottles with you on outings. Refusing single use plastics such as straws and picking up a piece of rubbish as you leave the beach.
And most importantly as plastic is so ubiquitous in our environment is remembering to recycle. Every plastic bottle recycled is plastic that does not end up in landfills and in our oceans. There is a new trend in recycling that makes it even more important to remember to recycle. Recycled plastic bottles can be repurposed into wood alternative, polyester, seating or even into a dress worn by Emma Thompson to a gala event.
Recycled water bottles can be transformed into filament yarn that is used in the production of yoga pants and swimsuits can be designed from recycled fishing nets. Recycled textiles such as these will become more common place in the years to come. The plastic bottles you remember to recycle can become a new product. Recycling can lead to new ethical yoga wear. This end of life recycling conserves energy, results in fewer greenhouse emissions and can help reduce the amount of pollution in our air and water sources. By re-using existing fibres and textiles, there is no need to make these textiles from raw materials.
We can all become conscious consumers by becoming more aware. It is up to us to change the world one plastic bottle at a time. And a gentle reminder from Gandhi; you can be the change that you want to see in the world.
I am very passionate about plastic pollution in the ocean and felt the need to write this after seeing the documentary A Plastic Ocean
The photo of the rubbish on the beach is by Anita Horan- Plastic Reduction Campaigner FB @anita.the.writer
The other photos are from @living_ocean a not for profit organisation celebrating the ocean. Yogi Spirit donated a portion of profits from the Blackmores Market to Living Ocean and Boomerang bags (@boomerangbags)