How ‘A Plastic Ocean’ Impacted The Mainstream Environmentalist

This weekend I saw a screening of ‘A Plastic Ocean‘. I wanted to know what’s happening around the world, as a result of my actions.

I’m sharing some of the facts that came out of the documentary, and how they impacted me. You can also see this documentary on Netflix if you want to know more.

Over 80% of ocean plastic leaks from land sources…

This means you don’t need to be near the ocean to impact it. If you think the plastic in the ocean is due to fisherman littering or shipping containers falling overboard, think again. Our actions on land, in society, are impacting the ocean. Landfill cannot be completely contained; throwing something in a bin doesn’t mean that it won’t end up in the ocean.

The planet can’t digest plastic…

As a man made substance, plastic persists in the environment. It can’t be digested by animals, it won’t breakdown and add nutrients back to soil. Instead it blocks intestines, chokes animals and litters natural landscapes. It won’t just go away.

Plastic breaks up, it doesn’t break down…

When you hear that “a plastic bottle will last for 100-500 years” what that really means is it will look like a bottle for many years, then it will just be tiny pieces of plastic, which will cause even more harm. It’s harder to collect smaller pieces, and they can then be ingested by small fish and birds.

Micro plastics carry toxins into fish and animals…

If an animal doesn’t die from an inability to eat or digest food, or from choking, it could also die from the toxins attached to the plastic. Plastics attracts chemicals and toxins which then enter the animal by ingestion. These toxins can make it up the food chain and into fish that humans consume.

Traces of plastics and textiles were found in ¼ of seafood samples taken in America France and indonesia.We could assume that sampling in Australia would return similar results.

Exposure to plastics can kill you…

This documentary touched on the toxins you breathe in from burning plastic, the cancer and medical issues faced by people living near plastic landfills in Asia and the hormonal impacts of consuming food and drinks in plastic. An alarming statistic showed a dramatic increase in plastic related chemicals being present in the bodies of younger generations. Which means we are yet to see the long term health impacts of excessive plastic use. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea to be surrounded by the stuff.

On average, a plastic bag is used for 12 minutes, but it will last forever; in some form or another…

I’d like to think that’s enough said. But what that means is, we are constantly adding to the long lasting plastic in the world, for very frequent short term requirements. This is not sustainable.

Humans don’t have the right to destroy the world…

This was something David Attenborough quoted to Barack Obama, to represent the thought process of millennials. Obama insinuated that there had been a shift in thinking between generations. I find it astonishing that previous generations didn’t also think this. But then again, previous generations may have been preoccupied with war and economic problems. Or perhaps it has become more socially acceptable to push back on the ‘norm’, opposed to the reactions “hippies” received in the 70’s. Either way, we have no excuse to leave this problem for the next generation.

There is no “away”…

When we “throw away” plastic, it doesn’t go away. It just isn’t an obvious problem to us anymore.

The only answer is to break the cycle, by either:

not producing it in the first place, or

capturing it at the end of use and ensuring it is brought back into the lifecycle

What can you do?

1. Learn about the impacts from waste

Yes, others know about it, yes others could make changes. But here’s the thing! If the person next to them isn’t changing, then they think it’s okay not to change. If the person next to them is you, then you need to take action.

2. Think about what you’re doing

Just because it’s normal, doesn’t mean it’s right. It’s your action, your waste, you have the ability and the responsibility to change it.

3. Avoid plastic

Every piece of plastic you use in your lifetime, will outlive you. You can reduce your landfill legacy if you instead use paper or glass, which can be processed by the environment.

4. Recycle what you do use

If you recycle, the plastic can go back into the lifecycle, and avoid being a problem for a little bit longer

5. Try a Plastic Free July

Changing everything you do, will take time. Instead, commit to some changes from this list. Commit to making them happen in July. Once you have found ways to not use those items for 4 weeks, it’s likely you’ll never feel the need for them again.

If you make any of these changes, or have any thoughts on A Plastic Ocean, please share them on the Mainstream Environmentalist Facebook page.

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