28/04/2014

We eat the plastic we throw away

The origins of the plastic back to the late nineteenth century, but it was not until 1909 that bakelite, the first completely synthetic plastic invented of the history. They were advancing chemically and since the second half of the twentieth century the plastic has colonized all areas of our lives and our everyday and is conditioned  the objects of single use, especially in the packaging industry for food.

There are tens of thousands of specific types of plastics grouped into little more than a dozen types. They have a life that goes from 400 to 700 years to degrade and disappear completely. However, most of them are used and manufactured for single use, this includes all packaging and all kinds of daily use. It is a paradox that is ravaging environmental level and is a great challenge for Humanity.

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Around 75% of European and 93% of American plastic are improperly discarded in the environment or exported to developing countries —Photo Unknown Author

In 2012, worldwide, there were 280 milions of tons of plastic. In the United States the percentage of recovered plastics produced is compared with a 7%, 25% in Europe. The rest or is not recyclable, is improperly disposed of in the environment or is exported to developing countries.

It is estimated that in the US alone, every five minutes are used and two million water bottles are discarded, of which only 10% are recycled. Each year more than six million tons of trash end up in the oceans, most plastics part. And it is estimated that in total may be more than 100 million tons of waste suspended in the seas.

In 1997, Charles Moore, a British oceanographer and navigator, discovered a big garbage patch in the North Pacific Ocean. Later called Garbage Island or The Seventh Continent, since today is three times the area of ​​Spain, approximately 1.400.000 km2, and is estimated to contain tens of millions of tons of waste and growing. This area was created by the collision of two streams that create a vortex that concentrates all the garbage floating toxic bodies at one place. 80% of this garbage comes from the coast of Japan and the United States as well as boats and floating positions —as base oil extraction— in these oceans. There are four similar spots in other parts of the world ocean smaller, and come from other countries, but all the seas and oceans of the world are contaminated by this material.

Most plastics are concentrated in these spots are photodegradable type, its own degradation causes it to turn into tiny particles to a molecular level and the particles travel by sea currents around the globe. Given its small size, is mistaken for zooplankton, being eaten by jellyfish and other small invertebrates and they in turn ingested by marine creatures. Sea surface from these polluted areas, according to research there are more particles of this type that zooplankton. Also the fishes, especially large cetaceans and birds ingest plastic long lasting, some die because eat plástics and others don’t die but are eaten by other animals with this materials inside. For this reason, the plastic has entered —and has started— in the food chain of the entire ecosystem, including of course the human being, with this incalculable impacts on our health. Our own way of living and consumption affects our health, and we eat what we throw away. Unlikely but true paradox.

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Unbelievable but true —Photo Chris Jordan

Each year , one million seabirds and 100.000 marine animals including dolphins, turtles, fish and large whales die from plastic pollution. And untold numbers of species at the ecosystem level are affected by marine pollution and human waste plastics and chemicals. All this without adding the impact of marine fisheries unsustainably.

Moreover, recently in 2013, the WHO (World Health Organization) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) published a report in which they warned of the dangers of some chemicals —cosmetics and sunscreen especially parabens and others—, including Bisfenol A, present in many plastic containers and food packaging single use. These substances act as endocrine disruptors, and the investigations link this to endocrine disorders, certain types of tumors, brain function and fertility. In the case of animals, the investigation conclude the disruptors its probably the cause of the demographic problems in some species in recent times. They have been defined as a global threat to all species and the environment.

For all the reasons described many organizations such as the Environmental Cleanup Coalition or Coalition Plastic Pollution, dealing with the mission of spreading ideas and develop actions to the problem that generated the invention of the twentieth century. The power of proximity and local reduction of packaging and bags and participation in cleanup projects are some of the key posed, however the challenge as humanity to our environment and to all those who inhabit is actually, oceanic.

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