Every year, 9 million metric tons of plastic end up in our ocean.
The “garbage patch” is only the tip of the iceberg
Only 1% of plastic floats on or near the surface. The remaining 99% sink or break down into microparticles to litter the deep sea, becoming impossible to collect while working their way into our marine food chain.
This pollution has a lasting effect on health, climate, and maritime activities.
Effects of plastic pollution
Plastic waste has become a pandemic – on land as well as in the sea. This pollution has effects on various domains:
An estimated one million birds, 100,000 marine mammals, sea turtles and countless fish die each year when they become trapped in plastic or eat it. Some plastics also act as sponges for toxins harmful for the marine environment. Last but not least, Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate are found in certain plastics, known to be endocrine disruptors that can cause damage to the foetus development.
79% of plastic waste is accumulated in landfills or the natural environment causing water and soil contamination. Also,
debris accumulation in standing water increases the threat of diseases. At sea, plastic microparticules is responsible for the contamination of our seafood.
USD 120 billion: value of packaging material lost annually to the economy. Unrecovered plastic waste found in nature is a significant loss from an economic point of view.This raw material has a continuous production and runs down oil reserves (8% of the world production)
Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Recover
To fight against plastic pollution, concerted actions at all levels is required:
Change our consumption patterns, stop the use of packaged products, and choose sustainable alternatives (bioplastics, edible packagings). All these transformations are necessary but require a lot of time. Meanwhile, we need to find transitional solutions.
The most efficient way to avoid waste is the reutilization of plastics, a step up from recycling. A chair made out of tires or fabric made of woven plastic bags are two examples of reusing materials.
When plastic cannot be reused, it can be recycled. Various simple processes such as shredding, melting, extruding or injecting make it possible to obtain new materials (insulating material, building bricks, tiles or even furniture..)
When plastic is no longer reusable or recyclable, it can still be valued one last time by recovering the energy it contains. The liquids or synthesis gases obtained can be used as substitutes for fossil fuels (industrial boiler, district heating): as fuel for slow engines (ships, construction machinery, generators …) or after distillation, as liquid fuels (gasoline or diesel) for vehicles.
Several decades will pass before finding competitive sustainable solutions to plastic and to cleanup our environment. We must limit the damage with transitional solutions to recover plastic waste until we reach a completely sustainable era.
Considering plastic waste as a resource
What if collecting and recovering trash was profitable?
What if waste was actually a resource?
Hundreds of thousand of people could collect plastic for a living while cleaning the coasts at the same time, thus preventing plastics from ending up in the ocean.