True or false?

Which of these three statements about plastic in the oceans is false:

  • Most plastic waste comes from those who live 30 miles or more away from the coast.
  • A plastic bottle takes 400 years to decompose.
  • The mass of plastic outweighs the mass of plankton by 6 to 1.

 Ok, you got me – all three are true. Most worryingly, perhaps, is that plankton – responsible for 50% of our oxygen – is outweighed 6 to 1 in the worst polluted areas by plastic. Not a great ratio. It’s not just that it’s hideous to look at – plastic and other commercial waste is polluting our food supply, spreading mercury and other poisonings and, obviously, hugely affecting marine wildlife.

But is cutting back on a few plastic bags at the supermarket really going to do the trick? When you look at the ghastly mounds of rubbish in the Atlantic, or the 38 million pieces of plastic that washed up on one of the (thankfully) uninhabited Pitcairn Islands it doesn’t seem so.

What are our chances?

So what are humanity’s chances of sorting this one out? I’m actually pretty optimistic, having checked out what The Ocean Cleanup are doing. They have invented technology which – as early as this May – will be sucking up the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and they’ve predicted that they can half the plastic pollution of that area within 5 years.

What comes next

But what then? All the plastic is collected and goes where? Their answer is pretty solid:

‘Our plan is to recycle the plastic and turn it into feedstock for B2C company products. We hope to be able to fund the expansion of our cleanup, from the North Pacific gyre to the other four gyres, with the help of this revenue. Some of the plastic might also be turned into oil, to power our support vessels.’

We do like a good social enterprise!

But despite the bacteria which can now break down plastic, and companies like Ocean Cleanup doing their bit to recycle, the ball still falls in our court. We must use less plastic, and we must start right now. Or as Ocean Cleanup call it - ‘turning off the tap’. 


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