Plastics have taken over the Earth and the ocean has become its main dumping ground. Pollution of marine ecosystems is a reality that scientists and environmental organizations have been denouncing for years and that, far from remitting; it seems to have no end. Stop using plastics. Each year, more than eight million tons of plastic end up in the sea, contaminating the habitat of thousands of species and ending the lives of many of them. After 193 countries – Spain among them – signed in December the UN declaration to reduce the pollution caused by plastic in the oceans by 2025, EL ESPAÑOL launches in May a series of daily reports on everyday objects whose waste is causing serious damage in nature and on the alternatives that exist to them: from plastic water bottles – the first item in the series, which will be released this Wednesday – to ear swabs, toothbrushes, coffee capsules or containers of polyethylene of fruit and vegetables.
Stop using plastics
1) We live surrounded by plastic
In Spain, the government plans to prohibit the distribution of plastic bags from 2020. However, if you want to start to prevent the damage we are causing on the planet is aggravated, here are 15 compelling reasons to stop using this material once and for all and start to propose sustainable alternatives for our day today. The future of the planet and thousands of species depends on us.
2) Million tons of plastic
8,300 million tons. That is the amount of plastic that humans have generated since the early 1950s, the date on which the large-scale production of products made with synthetic materials burst into our lives and was replacing wood or aluminum and seizing especially the packaging. This figure is equivalent to 822,000 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to 25,000 buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York, or to 1,000 million elephants. The 10 things you did not know about Pablo Casado and Soraya Sáenz de SantamaríaThe 10 things you did not know about Pablo Casado and Soraya Sáenz de SantamaríaA.O.This Saturday at noon the Popular Party will have a new leader and JALEOS has proposed to know the most unknown of the two candidates.
3) The year 2050: more plastic than fish
Experts calculate that in 2018 we generated 20 times more plastic than was already made just 50 years ago, in 1964. The data is chilling if we expect that, according to a report prepared by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a British non-profit organization that struggles for the sustainability of the planet, the amount could double in the next 20 years and quadruple by 2050. According to the data handled by this foundation, given the large-scale production that occurs around the world and the amount of waste and microplastics that go to the sea, in just 30 years we could find a scenario in which there was more plastic in the sea what fish. As they read it.
4) Eight million tons in the sea, stop using plastics
The marine environment is becoming a huge dump due to the amount of garbage that humans produce and dispose of irresponsibly. But how much plastic ends up in the seas and oceans every year? Neither more nor less than eight million tons. This was pointed out by an alarming study published in 2015 in the journal Science, which indicated that the situation was much more serious than we could have imagined. According to this work, which calculated for the first time the amount of plastic that reached the marine ecosystems from the land, if not remedied, the situation could continue to worsen since by 2025 it is estimated that the figure could be perfectly doable. That is 16 million tons per year. Among the countries that pollute the most are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
5) The Mediterranean, one of the most polluted seas
And what is the situation of the Mediterranean? Well, not much better than the rest of the seas and oceans in which the plastic takes time to roam freely. According to the latest Greenpeace report, between 21% and 54% of the fragments of microplastics that exist in the world are found in this sea that bathes the Spanish coasts. A study published in the Marine Environment Research magazine in 2016 estimated that in a square meter of the Mediterranean there may be some 147,000 microplastic particles. That is to say, the sea that bathes the Spanish Levante accumulates more than 1,450 tons of plastic floating only on its surface.
6) A huge amount of animal deaths
Establishing a figure of how many species die due to plastic contamination is really complicated. In 2014, Laurence Maurice, a researcher at the French Research Institute for Development (IRD), said that more than 1.5 million marine animals die annually after ingesting plastics and microplastics found in the aquatic environment. Stop using plastics What we do know with complete certainty is that more than 200 different species of fish, mammals, birds, and turtles consume this type of waste because they are confused with food. A study published in 2016 in the journal Science Advances noted that seabirds are stuffed with these compounds because they confuse them through smell with food like some fish like the whale shark or different types of turtles.
7) Five trillion plastic bags
Five trillion. That’s the amount of plastic bags that humans produce every year. Or what is the same: 160,000 bags per second. Such a quantity, which would amount to twice the area of France, would be less counterproductive for the future of the planet if humans were able to recycle them. But the reality is that less than 1% of these everyday objects that we use to transport all kinds of goods end up being recycled. In Spain, according to figures handled by the Government, we consume 8,476 million bags a year, which would be equivalent to 180 per person per year. Thus, while in countries such as France, Italy, Ireland or Morocco have been banned, in Spain the implementation of the Royal Decree foreseen for this month of March that intended to prohibit the free delivery of bags in any establishment has been delayed.
8) 12 minutes of use, 500 years to decompose
In 1965, a Swedish company called Celloplast patented the one-piece polyethylene bag for the first time. Engineer Sten Gustav Thulin had devised it to replace the traditional cloth ones. Gustaf thought that it was an invention that, due to its versatility, would change the lives of many people. What he surely did not imagine was the tremendous impact they would have on the environment years later. Stop using plastics. Spaniards, according to government data, we use the plastic bag an average of 12 minutes and only recycle 36% of them. However, its decomposition can naturally extend up to 500 years, according to data from the Ministry of the Environment.
9) The ‘big plastic island’ of the Pacific
1,800 million fragments of plastic. This is the amount of this synthetic material that researchers have found in the Great Garbage Patch of the Pacific, also known as garbage island or toxic island. This marine dump is located in the oceanic turn of the North Pacific and houses 80,000 tons of plastic, according to a study carried out by researchers from the Ocean Cleanup Foundation and whose results were published only a few weeks ago in the journal Scientific Reports. Discovered in 1997 by the oceanographer Charles Moore, it is estimated that it currently extends over 1.6 million square kilometers (three times the area of Spain) and occupies a space 16 times higher than originally believed. According to this work, in this area, there would be a plastic concentration of 10 kilograms per square kilometer.
10) Plastic record in the Arctic
The Arctic, one of the oceans hardest hit by climate change, has seen how in recent years the microplastics have been appearing in the ice of their waters and reach record levels. This has been confirmed by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute and the Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research in Germany, who have found up to 12,000 plastic microparticles in five different regions of the Arctic. The results have just been published in the journal Nature. The scientists found up to 17 different types of plastic, including packaging material such as polyethylene and propylene, but also traces of paint, nylon, polyester and cellulose acetate, which is used mainly for the manufacture of cigarette filters. The large concentrations of these materials suggest that they have been able to move from the Great Garbage Spot of the Pacific, but also that the expansion of maritime transport and fishing are causing real havoc in this unique ecosystem.
11) Spain, the country that throws more plastic to the landfill
Spain is the country that sends the most plastic directly to the landfill. In particular, we throw 23 kilos per person per year. This is what the plastics report states: the situation in 2017, prepared by PlasticsEurope, which brings together the main plastic producers in Europe. According to this work, Spain increased the amount of this synthetic material sent to the landfill by 4% just at the same time that in the rest of Europe has been reduced by 20%. Paradoxically, according to this work, our country is the second country in Europe that recycles the most per capita. However, the amount of plastic we generate and use is still much higher.
12) The last dead species on our coasts
29 kilos of plastic. That’s the amount of garbage that researchers at the Wildlife Recovery Center El Valle found inside the stomach of a sperm whale that appeared dead on a beach in Cabo de Palos (Murcia) last February. It is the last animal victim caused by the plastic that has appeared on the Spanish coasts. The cetacean was 10 meters long and weighed 6.5 tons. “It is more than likely that the same marine debris caused an impaction of the digestive system due to the inability to expel all the ingested material, or failing that, this material will cause peritonitis by perforating the intestinal loops”, assured the researchers.
13) Kenya, the toughest country in the fight against plastic
In 2017, Kenya announced the toughest ban to date in terms of plastic bags. The African country, which began to apply this law on August 28, 2017, establishes fines of 30,000 euros and penalties that rise up to four years in prison for any citizen who produces, sells or simply carries a plastic bag. Since then, the mountains of debris that accumulated in the streets of Nairobi have been reduced considerably. Kenyans now use reusable materials such as newspaper, old bags or fabrics of different types and have become a global example of how it is possible to live without this polyethylene object.
14) France prohibits single-use cutlery
In 2016, France became the first country in our area to prohibit single-use plastic cutlery. According to data from the Association of Environmental Health of France (ASEF) collected by El Mundo, the country sends out around 5 billion plastic cups every year. This figure is equivalent to about 150 glasses per second. The plastic cutlery is made mainly with polypropylene or polystyrene, two compounds whose decomposition naturally is practically impossible. According to the French environmental organization, of that 1,600 million plastic cutlery were directly incinerated, and 2,400 million were sent directly to the landfill, where they take more than five centuries to degrade.
15) Living without plastic is possible
Is it possible to live without plastic? The answer is clear: yes. More and more initiatives are proposing to abandon this synthetic material and opt for more friendly options with our environment. So stop using plastics, Patricia Reina and Fernando Gómez created some time ago vivirsinplastico.com, an online dissemination project in which the existing alternatives count. They are not the only ones. Bea Johnson, a Frenchwoman based in the United States, has become a kind of guru in the fight against plastic and has created Zero Waste Home, a worldwide movement that teaches how to live with a quantity of plastic that fits in a candy jar.