Last night I watched a Netflix show called Broken, it is a documentary in four parts about products that are affecting our planet, in episode four they talk about plastic facts. I like to think that I know a bit about plastic and the environment through reading and watching doco’s but I have to say that it was an eye opener for me, hopefully, these five plastic facts are new to you as well…
ONE: The Plastics Industry “Invented” Recycling
Hang on what? Exactly my thoughts, it was in the 1970s that the plastic industry was starting to take off and was facing potential bans or taxes on plastic packaging so they introduced plastics recycling. However, those in the petrochemical industries (plastic is made from fossil fuels like crude oil and natural gas) knew that the technology wasn’t available to recycle plastics at the time, and it wasn’t until the late 1980s that plastic recycling started to really happen.
These are the plastics identification codes that the Plastics Industry Association developed in 1988. Of these seven codes the mostly commonly recycled are numbers 1, 2 and 5 and there is barely a market for the other plastics. This greenwashing by the plastics industry was to try and stop people from thinking that they shouldn’t buy plastic, but instead think, well it’s ok it can be recycled!
According to Wikipedia 13% of all plastics produced are number four – LDPE soft plastics, and these are hard to recycle and there isn’t much demand for the recycled plastic…. so YAY it can be recycled, but if it can’t be used then what is the point? There are companies coming up with new ways to deal with this, but not fast enough or effectively enough to deal with all the plastic being produced.
TWO: Only 9% of all Plastic ever made has Been Recycled
Yep, only 9% of all plastics produced have been recycled, partly because there aren’t enough recycling plants in each country to keep up with demand, partly because the technology for plastic recycling didn’t really exist for the first 10 years, partly because there isn’t enough demand for the recycled plastics – often they can’t be used for the same purpose as the original plastic. Of the plastic that has been recycled less than 1 percent has been recycled more than once…. What this means is that the plastic is going into landfill or worse being burnt! Burning plastics emits chemicals that have been linked to cancers – not good.
THREE: One Garbage truck is dumped into the ocean every minute of every day
But there isn’t that much plastic is there? Yes, unfortunately, due to a lack of recycling and overproduction there aren’t many places to put plastics. Often it is dumped into oceans, or on land of which approximately 80% ends up in the ocean, basically equivalent to one garage truck a minute just dumping plastic into the ocean. This makes me SO angry, I see so much plastic when I swim in the ocean, and yet how much of it ends back up in there once I pull it out and put it in the bin?
FOUR: Every Time You Buy Plastic you Create More Demand
Yep! Not something that you necessarily think about, but a topic that I covered when I talked about tiny hotel shampoos. Just because it has already been made does not mean that it is ok to consume. Whether it is a takeaway coffee cup, bread in a plastic bag, a frozen meal in a plastic tray, or a bag of apples in plastic it sends a message down the line to make another one/ten/hundred because it is in demand, people want to buy it. If no one bought the items there would be no demand and therefore the plastic wouldn’t be produced because there would be no need for it. I do admit that this is difficult because it is VERY hard to not buy items in plastic from food to clothing to household items you often can’t find a plastic-free alternative – believe me I have tried – I went plastic free for a week and it takes a lot of time, effort and willpower.
FIVE: Plastics Affect Fertility
We each eat around a credit card of microplastics every week according to the Futures Centre. Plastics are in the food we eat and chemicals from the plastics we use affect our bodies. Research by Shanna Swan (an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York) has shown that fertility levels are declining for both men and women of all ages. Sperm counts in men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have more than halved over the past 40 years and continue to fall at the same rate. At this current rate of decline by 2045 most men in these countries will have a zero sperm count 🙁
Scary isn’t it?
These plastic facts are just a few of the things that motivated me to start Hoopsy, to try to eliminate one plastic item from the world. It is a work in progress and we are working on a second version of the pregnancy tests that are plastic free, but it will take a bit of time, in the meantime I think 99% plastic free is MUCH better than 9% plastic free (which is what most midstream tests are). What do you think?