CNN online has published an article which is incredibly depressing. It starts off with the sentence “Eleven billion metric tons”. This is the amount of plastic that we can expect to accumulate over the planet by 2025 according to new research. But there’s worse to come. An expert who is passionate about protecting the environment says that he does not recycle his household waste because it is inefficient and that if you recycle one plastic bottle it does not stop a new plastic bottle being created. Also the recycling process is itself damaging to the environment. So recycling doesn’t work and in the meantime more than 1,000 metric tons (tonnes) of micro plastic particles fall onto America’s National Parks and protected lands in the west of the country annual. Yes, it falls in rain and in dust onto these National Parks.
Secondly plastic is found in nearly every ecosystem on the planet. These plastic particles called “micro-plastics” are spread by storms. We already know that tiny plastic particles are found on land in almost any place you care to mention even the most remote and they are found at the bottom of the deepest oceans in their millions. In short, they are everywhere on the planet, which is not surprising since CNN also reminds us that the world produced 348 million metric tons of plastic in 2017 and this number has been rising at 5% per annum ever since.
We also know that plastic has a very long life. It’s going to be between 450 and 5,000 years before these plastic particles are broken down (plastic bottles take 450 years to break down). It is quite extraordinary. Plastic is more than resilient. It is going to outlive hundreds of generations of people going forward.
Tiny plastic particles could lead to a decline in biodiversity. One source of micro plastics is clothing. Fleeces which are very popular and they shed micro plastic particles in the washing machine. So do many other items of clothing containing plastic. Visitors to the National Parks also shed micro-plastics from their clothing. The manufacturers are doing nothing, as far as I know, about this. Business ploughs on as if nothing has changed.
This catastrophic state of affairs must surely have a detrimental impact upon all wildlife on the planet including, of course, humans. I can remember seeing a photograph of a seagull feeding her young plastic particles believing that it was food. I can also remember a whale which died because it’s gut was full of tons of plastic bags. I can’t tell you how distressing this information is. I feel that we are doomed. Doomed as a species.
Sir David Attenborough believes that the world human population should be stabilised and should cease to grow. That would be the single biggest factor in stopping the damage to the planet that is currently taking place. Certainly there is very little chance that humankind is going to change its ways.