As we have have learned from childhood, too much of anything is bad. Whether it be liquor or cigarettes or burgers or fries ... or plastics.
The greatest advantage of plastic is also is biggest drawback. It is cheap and it is durable.
Think back a couple of decades when we bought soft drinks in glass bottles, and then had to return the bottle to get back the deposit. The manufacturer sent the bottles back to the factory, cleaned them and reused them a few more times. Not any more. Today we buy the soft drink in convenient plastic bottles. We do not need to return it ... the manufacturer does not want it back anyway ... we just throw it away.
There is no "away" when we throw away plastics.
"Away" is nearly always either a landfill or our rivers and seas where that plastic bottle whose content gave us so much pleasure for a couple of minutes, will stay for ever. Even conservative estimate say that it takes more than a thousand years for a plastic bottle to disintegrate. And then, it just becomes microscopic in size, it does not go away, plastic never goes away.
In a few decades oceans will become plastic sludges. Plastic particles will outnumber marine life by number as well as by volume. Will a solution be found to clean the oceans? Maybe. But do we wait for the tipping point? Should we wait for a solution, or do our bit to stem the problem? It is up to each of us to take a stand.
Click on the sections below to read a bit more about specific problems brought on due to the use of plastics.
What are plastics?
Plastic was invented a little over a hundred years ago. Its commercial viability became visible and was manufactured less than 90 years ago. In that short span of time, plastics have managed to push the world towards a near extinction level state, with the oceans choking and the land, animals and humans getting poisoned.
Single use plastics
We cannot seem to live without a lot of plastic in our lives. It is convenient, it is cheap, it is durable and has a lot of benefits. However, almost 50% of all the manufactured plastic that we humans use every day, are transitory. This group of plastics has turned us into a state of throwaway consumerism.
Thanks to the rotation of the Earth, the seasons, varying temperatures at different part of the globe, the ocean waters churn around in a never ending cycle. And these circulations form what are called gyres, huge circular ocean currents. Marine trash is gathering in these gyres and screwing up the system.
Plastic is made out of oil. Despite a lot of talk about recycling, it is cheaper to make virgin plastic than to recycle. Most plastic ends up in landfills or oceans. Our use of plastics adds to global warming with the use of oil and release of carbon thanks to the life cycle of plastic manufacture and its use.
If we divide all the water on Earth in equal parts, we will end up with 150 million parts. Of these parts, only one part contains fresh drinking water. People in large parts of the world have no access to clean drinking water. And the situation is worsening with global warming. It's time we did something about it.