More than eight billion tons of plastic have been manufactured since its production began in 1950. However, only 9% of the plastic produced has been recycled, 12% of it has been incinerated and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or in the environment ( one million actions against plastic, Greenpeace ).
Environmentally speaking, one of the biggest problems with plastic is that a lot of the products made of this material are intended to be used only once or for a short period of time – the famous single-use plastics (food wrappers, coffee cups, soda bottles … etc.) -. As a result, wrappers and packaging (that were only use once) represent half of the total plastic waste.
But, why is everyone so obsessed with plastic? What is the difference with other materials? After all, if all these products were not made of plastic, they would be made of other materials, right?
One of the issues is that most plastics do not biodegrade. In fact, some materials, such as polystyrene foam, can take thousands of years to decompose (Ocean conservancy). Instead, they slowly break into small pieces and fibers known as microplastics. These are tiny plastic particles, smaller than 5mm in length. Even if they are small, they preserve the property of absorbing toxic chemicals, but now that they are so small, they have the capacity to reach any corner of our planet, contaminating ecosystems and species, thereby reaching us through the products we consume.
Knowing all this, look around: How much plastic do you see? Look again, many of the things you never suspected of, are actually made of plastic: clothes, shoes, furniture, toys … What if now I told you that about 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year? That is the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastics being dump into the sea every minute, can you picture it? ( one million actions against the plastic, Greenpeace). So, I ask you: is there something you can do?