Concern is growing over far-flung plastic waste that is destroying marine life, according to the United Nations Environment Assembly. Tourism, fisheries, business and marine life are threatened by plastic contamination.
“The environmental impact of the way we use plastic cannot be ignored” said Achim Steiner, UNEP director.
Over 30% of the natural capital costs are as a result of greenhouse gas emission. This is from raw material extraction and processing. Marine pollution is the largest downstream cost, conservatively quantified at $13 billion annually. Inestimable amounts of plastic waste enter the ocean from poorly managed landfills, and littering. Some waste also floats over great distances. These are carried by ocean currents resulting in polluted shorelines.
Reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits. It reduces economic damage to marine ecosystems.
There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to waste. The result is mortality or illness when ingested by sea creatures. These creatures include turtles, as well as entanglement of animals such as whales and dolphins. Further damage is caused to critical habitats such as coral reefs.
Further concern has grown over micro plastics (particles up to 5mm in diameter) that are being ingested by marine organisms. A major concern is the increasing use of micro plastics in consumer products such as micro beads in toothpastes, gels and facial cleansers.
Beat the Micro bead App
More and more cosmetics contain micro beads which are a hazard to our environment. The North Sea Foundation and the Plastic Soup Foundation have developed an App which is used to check if a product contains micro beads. You scan the barcode of the product with your smartphone camera. New countries are also continuously added and the new version of this App recognises many more products. To download go to: http://get. www. beatthemicrobead.org
FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC POLLUTION
In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments such as grocery bags, straws and soda bottles are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
50 percent of the plastic we use, we use only once and then dispose of it.
Enough plastic is thrown away each year, to circle the earth four times.
We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year.
Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
The production of plastic furthermore uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production.
Americans dispose of 35 billion plastic water bottles every year.
Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a 1 liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
46 percent of plastic waste float and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating the the ocean gyres.
It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.
Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans hence making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. It is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
One million sea birds and 100, 000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body – 93 percent of Americans age six and older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).
A report, entitled Valuing Plastic: the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry was published on 23rd June 2014.
The research is the first-ever assessment of the environmental costs of plastic in business. It calculates the amount of plastic used by stock exchange listed companies in sixteen consumer goods sections. It assesses levels of corporate disclosure on plastic. Its aim is to help companies understand the risks and opportunities of plastic and build a business case for improving its management.
The Report furthermore recommends that progressive companies can improve management of plastic waste and win customer loyalty by developing closed loop models that thus recover resources and materials. Unilever has made $250, 000 of savings by using 15% less plastic packaging in its Dove Products. Dell has launched the first ever PC made using third party certified closed loop plastic.