Is your daily coffee destroying the ocean?

Fact – Every piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists today…

The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Once again you have snoozed for a bit too long so you are in a mad frenzy to get ready for work.

No time for breakfast today! Instead you pass your local barista on the way to work.

“The usual? Large caramel latte with soy milk for our favourite vegan coming right up!”

At this point life is bliss. You continue the walk to work, clutching the take away coffee in your cold fingers. Passing through the doors of the office, you throw the empty cup in the recycling bin, confident in your good deed. Life continues as normal…

The issue – Disposable Plastic

That disposable coffee cup (your first for the day maybe) has some pretty scary consequences. Not just for you, but the environment as well.

The stats:

  • 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year
  • 50% of that is only used once then thrown away
  • 8 million tons alone enters the ocean every year
  • 14% of all litter comes from beverage containers (this does not include labels or lids)
  • Packaging accounts for over 40% of total plastic usage
  • 85% of the world’s plastic is not recycled

Plastic production is set to increase as it is a cheap and incredibly useful resource.

Plastic pollution is a huge problem and has vast environmental issues, some still not known. What makes plastic so versatile and durable contributes to this growing epidemic.

Waste Product Decomposition Time

Item

Breakdown Time

Banana Skin 3-4 weeks
Paper Bag 1 month
Cardboard 2 months
Apple Core 1-2 months
Aluminum Cans > 1 million years
Orange Peel Up to 2 years
Cigarette Butts Up to 12 years
Plastic Bags Up to 20 years *
Plastic Bottles 450 years *
Glass 1-2 million years

* Plastic doesn’t ever truly decompose. It breaks down into fragments that disappear from view. These fragments continue to get smaller and smaller until they become particles. These stay in the environment waiting for an organism to eat it and then continue up the food chain.

 

 

“We can’t see them anymore, but they’re still there.” – John Weinstein, South Carolina Sea Grant researcher.

It is estimated that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are in our oceans today. Of this, 270,000 tons floats on the surface of the water, whilst the remaining pieces and micro-particles pollute the deep sea floor.

This has a profound impact on all creatures of the ocean and therefore, all of us on land.

How?

Plankton, the bottom of the food chain, eat by drawing water in and everything with it. Including indigestible, non-decomposable micro-plastics.

Impact on animals:

  • Over 100,000 marine animals a year are found dead entangled in plastic. Many are not found
  • More than 1 million seabirds die from plastic
  • Over half of the world’s fish suffer from plastic ingestion
  • Micro-plastic particles, polymers and toxic chemicals travel up the food chain
  • These toxic chemicals are then consumed by humans

Join the challenge

Plastic pollution is unnecessary and unsustainable. But together we can make a difference.

Australia uses nearly 7 billion plastic bags a year alone, 3.6 billion of which are shopping bags we use once for 15 minutes then throw away.

Fact – If you tied all those plastic bags together they would wrap the globe 42.5 times!

If every week each family in Australia used one less plastic bag there would be 253 million bags less a year!

Make the change. 

  1. When shopping bring your own reusable environmentally-friendly shopping bags
  2. Sit down for coffee dates using comfy mugs instead of throw away cups 
  3. Invest in a reusable water bottle made from glass 
  4. Buy produce how nature intended, not wrapped in a layer of throw away plastic 
  5. Reduce, reuse, recycle
  6. No recycling facilities available in your area? Hit your shire up! Its the 21st century 
  7. Join the Plastic Free July Challenge on Facebook and invite your friends!
  8. Host a movie night and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix
  9. Organise a friend date and clean up an area of your local
  10. Tell your government you support and want Container Deposit Legislation, where you get 10c on bottles returned. This exists in South Australia which coincidentally has a recycling rate of 74%

The other three points are for you guys. Be inventive and let me know what you come up with!

That is all for now folks! Until next time!

Shannen

P.S. Want to know what plastics are doing to your health and your families health? Next week I will be answering those questions and more!

Resources.

http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/

http://www.cleanupaustraliaday.org.au/

https://www.plasticoceans.org/film/facts.html

http://www.kabc.wa.gov.au/library/file/Fact%20sheets/How%20long%20Fact%20sheet%20KAB.pdf

http://seagrant.noaa.gov/News/FeatureStories/TabId/268/ArtMID/715/ArticleID/347/The-Global-Plastic-Breakdown-How-Microplastics-Are-Shredding-Ocean-Health.aspx

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/01/150109-oceans-plastic-sea-trash-science-marine-debris/

http://oceancrusaders.org/plastic-crusades/plastic-statistics/

2 thoughts on “Is your daily coffee destroying the ocean?

  1. Good post. Just to reiterate on the dangers of plastics, particularly to marine wildlife, here’s a link on the cause of Tina the sea turtle’s death;

    http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/dead-turtle-found-in-perth-had-intestines-stuffed-with-plastic-rubbish-20170610-gwomq6.html

    Plastic has been the scourge of modern society for many years. It’s virtually non decomposable. It’s unnatural. There is only one true method that destroys plastic. Burning. But burning plastic poses its own problems. When burned, many types of plastics release highly toxic gases (dioxin) into the atmosphere. Although there have been studies that when plastic is burned in controlled, highly specialized environments the resultant gases are purified, in a way, and can be reused as a clean gas energy resource. Burning plastic in the backyard, however, is not a recommend action and can be extremely dangerous. Personally, I think burning plastic is the lesser of two evils in comparison to disposing in a landfill. Some may disagree.

    But the elephant in the room, so to speak, is society’s views. Our “throw-away” society of short-lived, disposable items is one important factor that grossly inflates the issue on the use of plastics. Goods should be built to last with a useful purpose in mind. The “bin-material” mentality where disposable goods are merely massed produced for the sake of money’s sake and the fast replacement of poor quality items is deplorable. Plastic can be a great resource. It’s light, strong, cheap, and water proof. Plastic should be used and disposed of in a clean, intelligent manner. Perhaps, better yet, production/use should be ceased altogether, as there are many natural materials that can readily replace it. But I do not see this happening anytime in the future. Do you?

    Just some of my thoughts, anyway.

    1. Yes that is very true. Our society does have a ‘throw away’ and ‘disposable’ mentality which is incredibly wasteful and harmful to our environment.
      It is a view we have even with our clothes! A great documentary to watch on that is The True Cost on Netflix.

      Some countries around the world have the right idea though and are making policy changes. Ireland has band the use of plastic bags and Rwanda also (they only use paper bags). But until our government gets into gear we are the ones who have to make a proactive change.

      I did mention in the blog post that plastics can’t be broken down though this is technically incorrect…
      A new method has been created by The US army called PyroGenesis which breaks down plastic into its original raw materials! http://www.pyrogenesis.com/products-services/plasma-waste-processes/

      But I don’t see this reaching our shores any time soon. So until then, like you said, more effort should definitely be made to dispose of plastics in a clean, intelligent manner with an emphasis on functional multi-use items rather than disposable.

      And no I don’t recommend burning plastics either in the backyard due to the health consequences involved with the release of dioxins.

      To your last point… I feel like we are at a tipping point. Humans today are continuously becoming more and more aware of the consequences of our actions. We are beginning to demand transparency from the industries we engage with. This will only bring about higher standards and expectations on all fronts; ethical, environmental and social.

      But unfortunately all these changes take time, which is something we are running out off.

      I would like to end with a quote by Sir David Attenborough, a tireless environment campaigner who readily reminds us why we need to take extreme action now.

      “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”

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