We are swimming in plastic wastes in our oceans? How did it happen? What we can do about it?

It’s almost a century now that plastics entered in our lives. They’ve been used in various industries, gave us ease and convenience to produce many end products which were used in sectors such as medicine, transport, consumer goods. Plastics are very comfortable to use but where they go after we are done with them? Production numbers reach to millions of tons of plastic products per year with an exponential increase since 1950s. 

Disposable plastic products are the most in demand. Single use plastics make up 40 percent of all, many of these products hold rather a short life once purchased. In a timescale of minutes to hours they turn into trash. We have various types of plastics around us, some of them are made more durable, stronger or flexible by integrating additives in their production. But these additives also render them be more and more persistent once they become litter that we need to deal with. Recycle rates and numbers of waste produced are not reliable and most of the time not attainable because of transboundary trade in plastic waste that is happening around the world. Did you know that plastic waste that is recorded as recycled by developed countries mostly exported to emerging economies?

The convenience of lower processing costs and less environmental impact in the statistics of the country of origin are not sustainable solutions for our earth as plastic waste doesn’t recognize a national border any more. On the other side of the coin, how adequately plastic wastes can be processed by importing countries as they typically lack proper legislation, methods and tools to deal with it. Accumulated and abandoned plastic wastes, then, can easily be spread in the environment by wind, rain and flows. Their ultimate destination is our oceans. Once they reach the coast they can be carried away through the currents into to the oceans.  The next step is the formation of microplastics as plastics will degrade into much smaller pieces through sunlight, wind and waves. It’s a scientific fact but also not so difficult to imagine their effects on ecosystem. It is not possible to hide the consequences as the ugly truth of plastics will find the way to propel itself in the nature.

In a world of plastics -of all kinds- we do not have luxury anymore to produce, purchase and discard plastics in a reckless manner. We can’t find easy ways to wash our hands off the plastic waste that is produced in our countries. The urge for innovative materials is at the door. We have to be serious and effective about recycling while individually we should put effort to change our purchasing habits.