Of the 200 billion pounds of plastic that we use each year, about 10% winds up in the ocean. That's about 50,000 pieces per square mile. But most from East Asia finds its way to the North Pacific Gyre -- a garbage patch that may be 4 times as big as Borneo.
Over the years, sea plastic breaks down into tiny particles, which are magnets for toxins including DDT, dioxins and PCBs. Plankton, small fish, big fish and, eventually, humans consume these pollutants.
Most of the plastic that makes up the gyre is sourced from packaging that consumers enjoy for mere minutes: plastic bags, bottle caps, water bottles and Styrofoam cups.
Sea Studio'sStrange Days on Planet Earth follows Dr. Fred von Saal into waterways where fish are sprouting both ovaries and testicles. He's linked the trouble to tiny concentrations -- a few parts per trillion -- of BPA (bisphenol A).
This estrogen-mimicking plasticizer leaches from polycarbontes, used for hard water bottles and, and as a lining for canned drinks and foods.
More than 8 billion pounds of BPA are used in the manufacturing of products each year. Doses of just micrograms per kilogram body weight per day are linked to prostrate and breast cancer, fertility issues and heart arrhythmia. (Sources: Wikipedia and US News and World Report)
Bemoaning a shortfall of high-grade recycled plastic, Electrolux worked with environmental agencies to collect plastic from the oceans' 5 trash gyres. Each was molded into a concept vacuum cleaner. Sadly, you won't find the vacs at your nearest mall. They're only for display purposes.
"We are the heroes of the Earth!" calls out a community organizer for trash collectors in Jakarta. "We clean the Earth of plastic."
Danone AQUA and Ashoka collaborate on the "Pemulung Empowerment Program". Working with local organizations, they propose social business solutions to improve the economy and living conditions of traditional waste pickers. Improved sorting of plastics, for instance, allows the collectors to earn a higher price on recycling stock.
According to the United Nations' Our World 2.0, 1% of urban dwellers in the developing world make their living by collecting and scavenging waste. In Jakarta, this contributes to the recycling of about a third of the city's solid waste.
When Typhoon Ketsana ravaged the Filipino capital of Metro Manila, in 2009, the area of Marikina was badly flooded. Making the natural disaster even worse was the city's clogged storm drains, choked by plastic bags.
A year later, this report finds local residents tackling recycling with a vengeance. Before the floods there were no recycling staions. Within a year, there were 80.
Residents followed the lead of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, a relief organization to which they a felt special loyalty in the wake of the floods. Says Muslim resident, Hamza Saro: "We saw Tzu Chi doing good things, so we recycle to help Tzu Chi. There are no religious barriers."
As with many successful enterprises, a few committed community members head up the revolution. Enter Leo and Carmelita Rejano, who make the rounds locally to promote and monitor the effort. Says Carmelita: "I want to save the Earth. The garbage that shouldn't be thrown away can be reused, and I also learned that recyclables can help a lot of people."
A lighter take on the move to ban the bag. Just say no!
SYNOPSIS: Plastic bags: an American addiction. Lucky for you, the Planet Police are here for the intervention. Find out if their covert sting operation will yield results in this unscripted "Cops" parody. To check out all of our awesome Webby-Nominated videos, head to TitanGreens.com!
In general, this playlist presents problem up top, solutions down below. But this little treasure is too precious to bury.
Indulge yourself in this touching short by High Beam Media on beach plastic "curators", Richard and Judith Selby Lang.
JUDITH: "We really like to say that this is a love story. From our first date at Kehoe Beach, a whole life has unfolded."
RICHARD: "We decided that we were going to go to the beach, and go as often as we could, and see what we could collect in one year. We started specializing in one item: juice lid caps... We thought, let's make a trophy of our days at the beach, so we made a trophy fish. In that one year, we collected at least 2 tons - 4000 pounds of plastic."
(Cue plastic fantastic marlin, life size.)
RICHARD: "The opposite of beauty isn't ugly. The opposite of beauty is indifference."
Testimony from the seaman who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. "Only we humans make trash that nature can't digest," notes Captain Charles Moore.
He argues that our single-use, "throw-away" culture is a learned habit, taught to us by marketers in the wake of austerity - the Great Depression and World War II.
Presenting evidence from his own research vessel, and disturbing images of wildlife impacts, he makes the case that cleanup of our oceans is impossible. Our only way forward is to wean ourselves of non-biodegradable plastics, and to stop pollution at our shores -- source of 80-90% of the solid waste found at sea.
A Brydes whale fights to breathe, stranded on a Cairns beach. A post-mortem revealed that the whale's stomach was packed with six square metres of plastic - mostly shopping bags.
Plastic isn't conclusively the "smoking gun" in this whale's death, but the global suffering imposed by non-biodegradable waste is clear. The United Nations estimates that each year more than one milllion sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles animals die due to plastic ingestion, suffocation and entanglement.
An American metalsmith and his Balinese bride have fine-tuned a technique for recycling post-consumer plastic bags. Heat-welding multiple layers with intricate cut-out patterns, they produce a lightweight, waterproof, durable, brilliantly colored textiles, and stitch them into bags and wallets.
Less than 10% of plastic trash is recycled -- compared to almost 90% of metals -- because of the massively complicated problem of finding and sorting the different kinds. Frustrated by this waste, Mike Biddle has developed a cheap and incredibly energy efficient plant that can and does, recycle any kind of plastic.
Cereplast makes plastics out of plant starch -- potatoes, tapioca, corn and algae.
From a press release:
"Cereplast, Inc. (Nasdaq:CERP) designs and manufactures proprietary biobased, sustainable plastics which are used as substitutes for traditional plastics in all major converting processes - such as injection molding, thermoforming, blow molding and extrusions - at a pricing structure that is competitive with traditional plastics. On the cutting edge of bioplastic material development, Cereplast now offers resins to meet a variety of customer demands.
Cereplast Compostables® resins are ideally suited for single-use applications where high biobased content and compostability are advantageous, especially in the foodservice industry.
Cereplast Sustainables® resins combine high biobased content with the durability and endurance of traditional plastic, making them ideal for applications in industries such as automotive, consumer electronics and packaging."
JBI, Inc. is an innovative North American fuel company that transforms unsorted, unwashed waste plastic into ultra-clean, ultra-low sulphur fuel without the need for refinement.
Our patent pending Plastic2Oil® (P2O) process is a commercially viable, proprietary process designed to provide immediate economic benefit for industry, communities and government organizations with waste plastic recycling challenges.