This is rubbish!

I can’t stand mess, trash and the people who litter. Every time somebody throws a cigarette on the street, I feel my stomach in my throat and I’d like to slap that person with that thrown butt. After which I would probably ask him/her to kneel on corn* until the cigarette fully degrades.

As I read more and more about littering, the harmful effects of plastics, and the carelessness of society, I loose it more and more. Jane Fonda, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others are in total panic as teenage environmental activists now share the idea of how we have screwed up this Earth.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – AUGUST 28: Fifteen year old Swedish student Greta Thunberg leads a school strike and sits outside of Riksdagen, the Swedish parliament building, in order to raises awareness for climate change on August 28, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by MICHAEL CAMPANELLA/Getty Images)

Since I didn’t have much idea about how plastic gets into the ocean or what happens to trash after the trash truck comes in, I did a little research on trash which I would like to share here.

What do I know so far?

  • One million plastic bottles are bought every minute worldwide, which could increase by another 20% by 2021. Only half of these have been redeemed in recent years and only 7% have been recycled.
  • The bulk of the most common plastic garbage in the environment comes from bags and PET bottles, most of which are still produced by Coca Cola.
  • The plastic bag has a decomposition time of 200-1000 years and a disposable diaper 550 years. Paper towels decompose in 2-4 weeks, newsprint decays in 1.5 months. It takes 2 months for cardboard, 3 months for cotton gloves, 1-3 years for plywood, 1-5 years for wool socks, 10-12 years for cigarettes and 25-40 years for leather shoes.
  • According to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 5 to 13 million tons of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year, so by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish. There are currently about 150 million tons of waste in the oceans.
  • The amount of plastic waste floating on the surface of the oceans is only 5% of the amount of plastic that is discharged into the seas worldwide – the remaining 95% poisoning deep into the oceans.
Photo by Lucien Wanda on Pexels.com

As I read through the articles above, I was constantly asked further questions, as the topic is huge and so far elusive for me. At least I don’t see the end. Here are some questions to answer:

Why is plastic a problem?

The problem with plastic is that it doesn’t break down. It does not rot, such as paper or food, so it can be found in the environment for hundreds of years. We produce 380-400 million tonnes of plastic worldwide each year, of which about 40% is disposable. This would not cause panic if plastic had a cycle. Where I see the biggest problem today is that there is no global solution to plastic waste management and at the same time there is no limit to production.

Why do we use so much plastic?

Plastic production is cheap and flexible, which is why it is used in such high quantities.

What does “plastic pollution” mean?

Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles (such as plastic bottles and bags) in the Earth’s environment, which adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Soil, waterways and oceans can be affected by plastic pollution. It is very damaging to living organisms, especially marine animals, such as being entangled in or eating plastic waste (left-over fishing nets). Consuming plastic particles can prevent them from digesting normal food and may be adversely affected by chemicals in the plastic. In addition, plastic can enter the human body through the food chain.

But how does plastic get into the oceans?

Even if you live very far from the seas and oceans, your trash can still end up there.

  1. You dispose of the plastic instead of recycling it – The non-recycled plastic is landfilled. When the waste is sent to landfill, the plastic may be blown away by the wind due to its super-light weight. From here it often gets close to canals, from where it goes straight to rivers and the sea.
  2. The garbage left on the street will not remain there forever – indeed. The wind blows it out and the rainwater washes away the plastic and delivers it to drains and sewers. And those often end in the ocean.
  3. The products that go down the drain – paper towels, cotton buds, cotton pads. Plastic microfibres even get into the water stream when we wash our clothes in the washing machine. Because they are too small to be screened by sewage treatment plants, they are consumed by small marine animals when they enter the sea, and eventually enter the human food chain.

And then we didn’t even mention the impact of plastic pollution on the weather, the burning of plastic, the fishing nets left in the oceans, etc. The subject is so infinite that I think most people don’t even start thinking about it.

That’s why we need to be smart right now. The problem is clearly the human race, which got a little too comfortable on this planet. It’s a stupid excuse that by the time it reaches the level of a real disaster, we won’t be here anymore. But our kids and their kids will – and the greatest favor we can do for them is to get ourselves together and start taking care of the Earth.

*kneeling on corn was the ultimate punishment for kids in my parents’ childhood

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