Sea turtle underwater wrapped in plastic waste

So much plastic

Around the world, more than one million plastic bags and plastic bottles are bought every minute. That’s 20,000 of each item sold per second. At this rate, we can expect plastic production to reach a staggering 1600 billion metric tons per year by 2050.

As you read these lines, 330 billion pounds of plastic are contained in our oceans and every year, 17 billion pounds are added to that number.

“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.”

Charles Moore, Marine Researcher

So much for plastic

Plastic doesn’t decompose the same way organic material does. Food scraps, plants and wood undergo a process called biodegradation, which means they’re broken down by microorganisms once they are buried in the soil. Once decomposed, organic matter helps the soil retain its structural integrity, protects plants from diseases and parasites, and replenishes the soil with nutrients to produce healthy plants and nutritious crops. But microorganisms don’t eat plastic.

Plastic breaks down through a process called photodegradation, which occurs when plastic is exposed to ultraviolet light. UV rays break the bonds that hold plastic molecules together, turning one big piece of plastic into a bunch of little pieces, but they will never contribute to the sustainability of an ecosystem the way organic matter does because they are still plastic. Furthermore, as plastics break apart they release toxic chemicals, contaminating the air, land and water and in turn, contamination the food chain.

These persistant chemicals pollutants pose a threat to virtually all living organisms on the planet. Exposure to petroleum fossil fuels and their products can lead to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, neurological defects, brain, liver and kidney damage, compromised immunity, endocrine dysfunction, and cancer.3 Plastics are also a physical hazard for wildlife as they routinely choke, get trapped and are otherwise harmed by discarded everyday items.4

So what’s next?

The worst thing about the plastic problem is doing nothing about it. Fortunately, there is a growing movement worldwide towards finding workable solutions to mitigate the dangers of plastic to the health of our air, land and water, and all plants, animals and people– in other words, the health of our planet.

Each one of us can make a difference by reducing our own dependence on single-use plastics and seeking out plastic alternatives wherever possible. We can further build momentum towards positive change by joining with others. By getting involved with an organization, whether as a volunteer or donor, you can be part of a greater community working towards a common goal that benefits us all.

Stoolie Stool Inc. is a member of such a community. A portion of our proceeds is donated to Plastic Oceans International, a global non-profit organization committed to reducing plastic waste through education and ocean clean-up initiatives.

Watch a preview of the documentary, A Plastic Ocean, here.

A Plastic Ocean is available for purchase on Netflix, YouTube and Amazon.

1 Ryan PG. (2015) A Brief History of Marine Litter Research. In: Bergmann M., Gutow L., Klages M. (eds) Marine Anthropogenic Litter. Springer, Cham