Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of the plastic ever created still exists in some shape or form and an alarming percentage of it has found its way in the ocean threatening marine habitats and sea creatures. Every year at least 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean resulting in over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million seabirds dying from ingestion or entanglement in marine litter.
Plastic eventually degrades into small particles and finds it way in all levels of the food chain. It contains harmful chemicals and additives like bisphenol A, phthalates and brominated flame, which have been proven to affect sexual development, damage genetic material, as well as being carcinogenic. In the ocean, a large proportion of these toxic debris will sink and contaminate the seabeds and coral reefs, which are home to 25% of all marine life, not to mention a crucial source of income and food source for millions of people.
Modern societies’ addiction to plastic has actually changed the face of the planet, leading to a global environmental issue and to what some people might call the biggest oil spill in the history of the earth. Nearly 300 million tons of plastic is being produced every year, 50% of which is single-used. Today more than ever it is essential to rethink plastic and challenge society’s perception towards this “indestructible” product paradoxically considered as “disposable”.
Mass production of plastics only started 6 decades ago, creating 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic. Only a fragment of that has been recycled or incinerated, which also harms the environment by releasing unhealthy gases and chemicals into the atmosphere. The vast majority of plastic, around 79% is accumulating in landfills, litters the environment and sooner or later finds its way to the ocean.
Around 2 billion people don't have access to proper waste collection infrastructures, resulting in most of this rubbish, including plastic, being dumped in waterways or burned along the side of the road. This is not only harmful for the environment but it can also have catastrophic consequences on human health. This toxic environment and fumes can lead to death, diseases and contribute to climate change.
There are five hundred times more pieces of microplastic in the ocean than there are stars in our galaxy and it is said that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. If there is not a radical shift in consumerism, humanity which depends on the health of the oceans is simply heading towards a plastic apocalypse. Thankfully there are a lot of individuals and companies who are actively trying to make a difference and reduce their plastic consumption, but it still might be a case of too little too late.
To tackle the enormous issue of plastic pollution, governments, NGO's and citizens need to combine efforts and come up with innovative solutions. Organizations like Parley for the Oceans revisited the old adage "reduce, reuse and recycle" and came up with the alternative A.I.R.: AVOID plastic by reducing and replacing it; INTERCEPT plastic by retrieving it from the oceans and recycling it; REDESIGN alternatives to plastic and create new industry standards.
The Plastic Bottle Village is an inspiring initiative by Robert Bezeau, on how to recycle single-used plastics by creating an eco-village made out of millions of abandoned plastic bottles. In this case, “another man’s trash is another man’s condo”.
Meet the king of the Plastic Bottle Castle: « If kids can believe in Santa Claus, why not in a Plastic King”. This king’s quest is to inspire the new generations not to do what his generation did to the planet. Initiatives like the plastic bottle village and easily replicable and essential to promote education and long lasting behavioural change towards plastic pollution. For the future of the planet is in the hands of the adults of tomorrow and the children of today.
Whilst the castle was made of 40,000 reclaimed bottles, each house contains 14,000 plastic bottles, which is the average human plastic bottle consumption. In October 2017, this initiative was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award by MiAMBIENTE, the Ministry of Environment in Panama. This project could be easily reproduced in other countries with both housing and waste management crisis.