What a load of (human) rubbish

The Earth is huge. There are billions of us humans on this one planet using plastic products every day. That’s why it’s not surprising that on average, enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the Earth 4 times. That’s a lot of plastic and a decent amount of this is single use.

Single use plastic

Single use plastic are the things we use only once before throwing in the bin. Water, juices, food – plastic is great for containing these things. In fact, it’s too good at its job. Plastic is so durable that even when thrown away after being used once, it lasts in the same form for up to 500 years. Even when it does eventually break down, it still lasts forever. Because it is man-made from oil and other substances, it can’t biodegrade (break down into the natural materials something is made from). That means every single piece of plastic ever made since it was first invented over 100 years ago is still around¹. It’s no wonder millions of tonnes of it is floating in the oceans, wrecking eco-systems and killing marine animals.

The scale of this problem is huge. A massive plastic island has collected in the North Pacific gyre, a natural current created by the rotation of the Earth. Nicknamed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is roughly the size of Texas. There are 4 more of these gyres, none of them quite as big, but with plastic patches of their own. And most of this is plastic bottles, bags, the things we only use once before chucking away without a care.

Bottled drinks aren’t even that good for us – not because of their contents but also because of the chemical element Antimony, found in your average PET plastic bottle. In small doses it can cause dizziness and depression; in larger doses, it can cause nausea and even death.

How YOU can take action

Now, don’t stop using any plastic – it is useful and, really, unavoidable. But you can help stop the problem getting any worse. Here’s what you can do:

  • Be aware of how much plastic you use – try and avoid buying a bottled drink from the shops or reuse the bottle if you buy one. Ideally, remember to take a water bottle with you everywhere so it can be constantly filled up. If you don’t like tap-water, consider buying a Water-to-Go – water bottles with a filter in the lid, so that the water is filtered before you drink.
  • Raise awareness of the problem. The more people who realise the problem and how they can help, the better. Share the Global Goals as well – Goal 14, Life Below Water, covers this plastic problem and aims to fix it.
  • Organise a little clean up or just pick some up yourself. Head down to your local park or, ideally, beach and pick up some plastic waste; it may not sound like much, that’s a few bags less of litter escaping into the sea.

Just doing small things like these  – reducing the amount of plastic you consume, picking up some litter, spreading the word. After all, that’s a few less bottles polluting our planet.


¹excluding pieces burnt.