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Plastic binge as dangerous as climate change
Posted by: Panchito ()
Date: July 01, 2017 12:21PM

[www.theguardian.com]

Quote

Exclusive: Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.

New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.

The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region.

Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, the round the world yachtswoman, now campaigns to promote a circular economy in which plastic bottles are reused, refilled and recycled rather than used once and thrown away.

“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption,” she said.

Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation and campaigning group Surfers Against Sewage, said the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth.

“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for a refundable deposit scheme to be introduced in the UK as a way of encouraging reuse.

Tagholm added: “Whilst the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.”

In the UK 38.5m plastic bottles are used every day – only just over half make it to recycling, while more than 16m are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day.

“Plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050 so the time to act is now,” said Tagholm.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. Last month scientists found nearly 18 tonnes of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific.

Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations. And earlier this week scientists warned that plastic bottles and other packaging are overrunning some of the UK’s most beautiful beaches and remote coastline, endangering wildlife from basking sharks to puffins.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, , according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production.

China is responsible for most of the increase in demand. The Chinese public’s consumption of bottled water accounted for nearly a quarter of global demand, she said.

“It is a critical country to understand when examining global sales of plastic Pet bottles, and China’s requirement for plastic bottles continues to expand,” said Downey.

In 2015, consumers in China purchased 68.4bn bottles of water and in 2016 this increased to 73.8bn bottles, up 5.4bn.

“This increase is being driven by increased urbanisation,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. India and Indonesia are also witnessing strong growth.

Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularised in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose.

Major drinks brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100bn throwaway plastic bottles every year – or 3,400 a second, according to analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage. The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6% of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100% across their global production.

Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100% recycled plastic, known as RPet – and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK.

In evidence to a House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100% recycled plastic used 75% less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles. “The recycled content ... can be up to 100%, however this is a decision made by brands based on a variety of factors,” said Philip Law, director general of the BPF.

The industry is also resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80%.

Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “Globally, we continue to increase the use of recycled plastic in countries where it is feasible and permitted. We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in.”

She agreed plastic bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic but there was nowhere near enough high quality food grade plastic available on the scale that was needed to increase the quantity of rPET to that level.

“So if we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.

Greenpeace said the big six drinks companies had to do more to increase the recycled content of their plastic bottles. “During Greenpeace’s recent expedition exploring plastic pollution on remote Scottish coastlines, we found plastic bottles nearly everywhere we went,” said Louisa Casson, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace.

“It’s clear that the soft drinks industry needs to reduce its plastic footprint.”


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Re: Plastic binge as dangerous as climate change
Posted by: riverhousebill ()
Date: July 06, 2017 06:54AM

Yanmar








A dolphin feeds on a floating bag, a seal is strangled by rope and a whale becomes choked by sheeting... now YOU could be the next victim of the plastic plague in our oceans
•Approximately eight million tons of plastic is dumped into the seas every year
•The oceans will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025
•A new film follows scientists as they uncover the truth about what is in the ocean



Published: 22:05 BST, 14 January 2017 | Updated: 02:26 BST, 15 January 2017






With six square metres of plastic sheeting tangled up inside its stomach, a magnificent Bryde's whale is struggling to breathe and is now on its way to a slow, agonising death off the coast of Australia.

It is just another pointless casualty of an ecological disaster, perhaps the biggest environmental catastrophe of all – caused by the millions of tons of poisonous plastic waste being dumped in our oceans.

This image is just one scene from a groundbreaking new documentary already described by Sir David Attenborough as 'the most important of our time'. It is a film that lays bare the astonishing extent of plastic waste killing the previously pristine oceans – and which could ultimately kill us, too.

Did you know, for example, that about eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the seas every year? Or that the oceans will contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025? By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish
The documentary team, which included scientists, researchers and presenter Ben Fogle (pictured), had expected to find that most marine waste ended up in the five oceanic currents

Launched next week, the film, A Plastic Ocean, follows a team of international team of scientists, researchers and environmental activists as they set out to uncover the truth about what is lurking beneath the surface of our waters.

Co-produced by members of the team involved in Sir David's acclaimed The Blue Planet series, it warns that if we don't take action immediately, future generations face an environmental disaster that might be impossible to solve.

And – by putting plastic and the toxic molecules it attracts directly into the food chain – it is not only killing the marine life, it is making us sick, too.

Their findings will astound viewers, just as it did me. As the mother of three children, I first became concerned about the impact our addiction to plastic was having on the planet eight years ago while sitting on a beach in the Philippines with a friend, Sonjia Norman, a fashion designer who would go on to become the film's executive producer.

We noticed there were pieces of plastic bottles floating on the surface of the water and tiny multi-coloured specks mixed with the sand.

Our conversation then turned to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the swamp of seaborne plastics trapped by the ocean gyres – or circulating currents – in the north Pacific Ocean between North America and South East Asia.

This was the inspiration for a four-year project to film in 20 locations around the world, including the seas around the Antarctic which would document in beautiful but disturbing detail the global effects of plastic pollution on marine life.

In the 90-minute film, we see rare monk seals from Hawaii tangled up and choking on discarded plastic, including beer carriers, plastic rope and abandoned fishing nets.

We see the Mediterranean fouled by an endless tide of floating garbage left by tourists and bottlenose dolphins eating plastic bags. Dead seagulls are found, their gullets heavy with plastic waste. In Sardinia, turtles are pictured swallowing bottle caps, plastic bags and balloons, believing them to be jellyfish – with fatal consequences.

An albatross is shown vomiting pen tops, cigarette lighters and even a toothbrush.

Such visible waste is disturbing, yet there is something more sinister still about the way we are destroying our oceans. The documentary team, which included scientists, researchers and presenter Ben Fogle, had expected to find that most marine waste ended up in the five oceanic currents, or gyres. The infamous North Pacific gyre, for example, is said to contain a mass of plastic the size of Texas – 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile – in clearly visible solid chunks.

But that is a misconception. While the water in the gyre did seem clear, on closer analysis it contained microscopic particles of plastics that had been broken down by the elements into a toxic fog reaching down to the seabed. It is this plastic soup that is eaten by plankton, which is, in turn, ingested by marine creatures. Whales, who swallow hundreds of tons of water, can't tell the difference and are slowly poisoned. And it stands to reason that fish, including those that reach the human food chain, are also feeding on plastics mixed in among plankton.

These minute pieces, it is believed, then attract toxins which are stored in the fatty tissues of tuna and other popular fish, and eventually consumed by us – with potentially disastrous effects.

It was reported last week that sushi, perhaps the trendiest and considered the most healthy food of all, almost certainly contains traces of plastic.





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We see the Mediterranean fouled by an endless tide of floating garbage left by tourists and bottlenose dolphins eating plastic bags

Some scientists now believe the impact of the plastic that surrounds us in everyday life may even be changing us physically. Exposure to the chemicals that make up plastic may contribute to some cancers, infertility, as well as immunity, metabolic and cognitive behavioural disorders.

The film's research warns that we should not wrap or store food in plastic, much of which is harmful to human health, not to mention the 39 carcinogens used in its manufacturing process.

Professor Susan Jobling, director of Brunel University's Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, was one of the first researchers to show how chemicals in plastics can mimic the female hormone oestrogen. She explains in the film that plastics can interfere with reproduction and development, and are linked to hormone-related diseases.

In some waters the team found that plastic particles outnumber plankton by a ratio of 26 to 1. Plastic has even been found in the deepest ocean trenches, where no human has ever been, as a result of currents, which carry plastic waste from coastal areas and river estuaries like a conveyor belt until it ends up in the centre of the five ocean gyres.

Such discoveries have turned me from a plastic addict to an environmental activist working to change people's attitude to the way we use and dispose of it.

I'm not anti-plastic for the sake of it. Who could be? It's a wonderfully durable, modern material that makes everything from my phone to bits of my car and the computers we so rely on.

But it is also seemingly indestructible. Unless it has been burned, which releases toxic gases, all of the plastic made over the past 50 years is still on the planet.

Very little, it seems, is actually recycled. Some ends up in landfill, but as the film shows, much of it finds its way through rivers to the sea – a cheap and easy dumping ground.

For decades, shoppers and businesses have relied on using lightweight bags as a strong and effective means of transporting items. Plastic bags have been so cheap – often free at the point of use – that we don't think twice about simply throwing them away. The relatively recent introduction of a 5p charge in shops has helped limit the use of throwaway bags, but they are still used by the million – not to mention the plastic packaging for fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and other foods.

We use more than 300 million tons of new plastic every year. Half of this we use just once and usually for less than 12 minutes. Plastic production has increased twentyfold since 1964, and is expected to double again in the next 20 years and almost quadruple by 2050.

In Britain, just seven per cent of plastics is recycled effectively – 40 per cent ends up in landfill. Most of the plastic already in the ocean will probably be there pretty much for ever. Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to break down fully, and even then they don't biodegrade. Anyone who looks at the facts can't help but worry about the future we are leaving for our children, which is why I have founded a new campaign group, A Plastic Planet, to help bring about a change in attitudes. We want everyone to be able to buy food that is free from plastic. Right now, it is very hard to do so.





+3
Plastic bags can take 1,000 years to break down fully, and even then they don't biodegrade. Pictured, a seal is strangled by a shopping bag

Yes, we are starting to get the message. From 2020, all plastic cutlery and plates will be banned in France. Bangladesh was the first country in the world to get rid of plastic shopping bags back in 2002. California prohibited single-use plastic bags three years ago.

Britain has banned microbeads, the tiny plastic balls used in cosmetics and cleaning products, and there are widespread calls to prohibit plastic drinking straws, too, which I support.

But as laudable as such piecemeal measures are, they are not enough. If we don't take more drastic action – and that means breaking our attachment to single-use plastic items – future generations face a scale of environmental disaster that may be impossible to solve.

We all can make a difference by changing our behaviour and lobbying companies to follow suit.

For example, if coffee chains could be persuaded to use paper straws and stopped using cups lined and topped with plastic – they could use plant-based biodegradable plastic instead – it would make a huge difference.

We must demand that supermarkets deliver food in paper bags. Insist too that plastic is not buried in landfill. Buy products with less packaging. This should be the year in which we radically change our habits to make Britain 'plastic-neutral' island. Because it is not just the seals, the gulls, or that tragic Bryde's whale that will ultimately suffer.

It is us, too.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/2017 06:57AM by riverhousebill.

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