Image for Plastic Pollution and our Noxious Consumerism

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All across the globe there is a silent killer. It invades our everyday lives, outlives us, and invariably threatens all marine life on earth.  Be aware, for it lurks and lingers in many durable shapes, and some of its pernicious forms may take centuries to degrade into minute particles.

Yes this predator is plastic, and it is choking an ocean nearby you right now.

Polymer synthetics have been part of our lives for half a century, but now in the 21st century the over-use of these petrochemical-based products are manufactured for almost every commercial aspect of a disposable/consumable lifestyle, which has become a massive threat to our marine-life ecosystems.

Australia’s contribution to the plastic pollution of our oceans is significant. Government sponsored studies have reported that there is about 12,000 tonnes of litter entering Australia’s marine environment each year, in addition to 6000 tonnes of waste related to fishing and other types of maritime activities.

These figures are highly disputed by the environment group Boomerang Alliance who claim that they can identify at least 56,000 tonnes of plastic entering our environment every year, which includes beverage litter, tyre dust, synthetic fibre, industrial production waste, micro-beads and plastic bags.

Australians alone buy near 600 million litres of plastic bottled water a year.

We use 10 million plastic bags a day, that’s 3.9 billion plastic bags a year.

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Globally Every Year -

*  6.4 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans.

*  Worldwide shoppers are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags.

*  Approximately 1 million seabirds die from plastic.

*  100,000 marine animals die from plastic entanglement.

With 30 per cent of marine fish in the world’s oceans considered to have plastics in their stomachs there is no doubt we are eating residual plastic contamination. Some estimates suggest anyone consuming an average amount of seafood will ingest about 11,000 plastic particles each year.

Our oceans are becoming a plastic soup, and our sea life is choking on the contents.

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Most of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable so it simply breaks into small pieces known as micro-plastics, which can make the ocean water look like a cloudy soup.

Ocean debris can also prevent the photosynthetic producers algae and plankton from receiving enough sunlight to create nutrients. This could put the entire food web at risk from the first order consumers right through to the apex predators.

Plastic pollution rides the ocean’s currents and reaches the furthest corners of our seas. Plastic is now even in the Antarctic wilderness.

Remedial action

Essentially all disposable plastic products should be banned.

Some countries are already banning commercial petrochemical based products such as plastic shopping bags, food and drink containers, polystyrene products, and micro-beads. But this is just the tip of the iceberg in the greater scheme of ocean pollutants.

The reuse of glass instead of PET (thermoplastic polymer) containers, along with an international unity of deposit legislation would make a significant difference.

The immediate end to the production of marine industry waste, beverage litter, micro beads, plastic bags, cigarette butts should be an imperative focus that would remove over 50% of the present pollutants.

It would be seemingly impossible to remove some products from entering our waterways and oceans such as tyre dust. However many other plastic based products used in widespread commercial commodities should be aimed at seeking an alternative biodegradable or organic product.

The development of biodegradable products from natural sources such as Hemp Plastic http://www.hempplastic.com  will be widely available when consumer pressure for ethical alternatives prevail.

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We are not only poisoning the land and sea, we are poisoning ourselves!

The majority of plastic bottles are made from polyethelene terephthalate (PET) plastic, which is produced from crude oil. Not only does oil extraction release greenhouse gases and harm habitats, plastic production also casts toxins into the environment.

Bottles can also be made of bio-plastic, which is produced from plant materials like corn or sugarcane instead of petroleum. Such plastics are biodegradable and can be composted, but this doesn’t mean they are totally earth-friendly, as bio-plastics require large amounts of resources like water and arable land that could be used to grow food otherwise.

Our petrochemical based disposable lifestyle cannot be sustained if we want a healthy planet. We must move beyond recycling and limit the amount of artificial products we produce in our everyday lives.

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*Ted Mead became fully aware of the issue of plastic pollution when he undertook marine-debri surveys along the southwestern coastline of Tasmania some 25 years ago. Since then, through his international adventures, he has witnessed an alarming increase of discarded plastics products found extensively across the land, waterways and oceans everywhere!