Ocean plastics What's the impact?

We’ve broken down plastic waste know-how into useful sections, in hopes that you will become inspired to reduce our plastic consumption, either as a business or an individual.

Check out what's going on beneath the surface

OceanLive is committed to ending bad waste habits. There is more to learn about ocean plastic than what

floats on the surface. In addition to the fact that littering is time-consuming and costly, it is devastating for

marine life and thus also for us. At OceanLive we are standing on our toes to turn meaningless garbage into

something more meaningful  – a mission worth fighting for.

1. Healthy oceans are important, but how important are they?

Everything flows downstream – and downstream awaits the sea. The ocean powers the global system that makes Earth habitable for the planet’s nature and creatures. Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, marine life, much of our food and even the oxygen we breathe are provided and ultimately regulated by the oceans.

Saving our ocean must remain a top priority and marine protected areas must be carefully managed. In addition to a joint effort around our consumption habits, extensive resources and stricter regulations are required to reduce overfishing, marine pollution and littering. In short, healthy oceans are critical to the well-being of our planet, and the presence of marine plastic in our oceans threatens this delicate balance.

Some interesting facts

  • The oceans cover about 70% of the Earth’s surface and contain about 97% of the Earth’s water. (Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA).
  • The oceans make up 99% of the Earth’s living space by volume, according to NOAA.
  • The oceans absorb around 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans and too much of the carbon dioxide contributes to global warming, among other things. (Source: Environmental Defense Fund).
  • Marine protected areas reduce poverty by increasing income from sustainable fishing, new jobs, and improved health. Rising levels of plastic waste in the world’s oceans are having a growing negative economic impact for everyone.
    (Source: International Maritime Organization NOAA).
  • Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. The market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5% of global GDP, according to United Nations Development Programme.
  • Around 80% of the volume of international trade in goods is carried by sea. Sustainable and climate-resilient maritime transport, is key to sustainable development.
  • Protected maritime areas reduce poverty by increasing fish catches and income, creating new jobs, improving health, and empowering women. Increasing levels of debris in the world’s seas and oceans is having a major and growing economic impact.
  • Oceans  help regulate the global ecosystem by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. However, oceans and coastal areas are extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation, overfishing, climate change and pollution.

2. Ocean plastic. Exactly what is it?

We must first understand the underlying problem behind the problem before we can take action. The term marine plastic refers to the accumulation of plastic objects in marine environments that negatively affect marine life, surrounding habitats and us humans. There is a significant amount of plastic that is not recycled and ends up in landfills or unregulated dumping sites in the developing world. A significant percentage of the garbage is plastic waste. Over 583 million tons of plastic were produced in 2022. 

Since 1 ton of plastic is equal to approximately 3,000 to 4,000 empty PET plastic bottles, depending on the size of the bottles. It represents 2,332,000,000,000 bottles during 2022. (Source World Plastic Production)

81% of plastic around the world is never recycled

We consume huge amounts of plastic (such as plastic bottles, plastic bags and food containers) because it is cheap, easy to use, can make the product more attractive and is durable. Because the chemical structure of plastic causes it to degrade slowly (over 400 years or more), this becomes a major problem when it is not recycled. Some statistics claim that we used five billion plastic bags in 2022. It’s such a large number that it’s hard to take in. 81% of plastic around the world is never recycled (depending on the region and type of plastic of course)

Source: The World Bank.

You ingest about 20 kg plastics

 It often ends up in the environment in developing countries in various ways, pollutes our seas and damages the ecosystem, putting marine life at risk. At the current rate of plastic consumption, you and I will ingest about 20 kg of microplastics in a lifetime. To deal with the problem of plastic waste and pollution in the oceans, it is not enough to become more environmentally conscious. We must immediately change our consumption patterns, develop our waste management and increase our knowledge about plastic recycling.

300 times more

In 1960, the world produced 2 million tons of plastic per year. Since then, annual production has increased nearly 300 times, reaching 583 million tons in 2022. That’s roughly the mass of two-thirds of the world’s population. During the period 2009 and 2010, the annual production was mainly reduced slightly, as an effect of the global financial crisis in 2008. In the wake of Corona, many had hoped that our oceans would be positively affected. In fact, disposable packaging had the opposite effect.

The chart shows the increase in global plastic production, measured in tons per year, from 1950 to 2020.

3. Why has plastic waste
become a global problem?

Plastic is a great invention in many ways but not all ways. Our society has been completely changed by it. Without plastic, our everyday life would be unrecognizable. Through plastics, life-saving devices have been invented, cars and jets have enabled us to travel, and helmets, medical equipment and food handling have saved lives. However, the convenience of plastic has led to a wear and tear culture that exposes a dark side. Today,50% of all plastic is intended for single-use items. (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

All plastic produced remains forever

Plastic bags and food packaging and plastic film sometimes have a lifespan of a few minutes to hours, but can remain for hundreds of years in the environment. When researchers say plastic degrades after 500 years, they are referring to the fact that it breaks down into microplastics and nanoplastics. As a result, it joins ocean sediments and becomes part of the food chain for smaller animals such as krill, rather than disappearing completely. 

The rate of degradation depends on various factors such as the type of plastic, the environmental conditions, sun light, friction, and the presence of additives. As disposable plastic products are produced at an accelerating rate, plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. Asia and Africa are the countries most affected by plastic pollution, as their waste management systems are often inefficient or non-existent. Developing countries, especially those with low recycling rates, also find it difficult to manage discarded plastic in a sustainable way.

There is no doubt that plastic has to go somewhere, and in developing countries it is often thrown directly onto the ground or into rivers before ending up in the ocean or dumped directly into the ocean, endangering marine life.

 

Some key facts

  • Half of all plastic in the world has been manufactured since the end of the 1990s.

  • In 1960, the production of plastic was 2 million tons, but in 2015 it reached 448 million tons. By 2050, production is expected to double. (Soruce: The World Plastic Production).

  • Around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the seas every year from coastal areas. (source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). This corresponds to approximately 4 full garbage bags per meter along all coasts worldwide.

  • It is common for plastics to contain additives that make them more durable, flexible and stronger. It has been estimated that it takes at least 400 years for many of these additives to break down if they become litter in our oceans.

The core question is: How much more plastic waste is needed for us to consider it too much?

4. How does ocean plastic become a global problem?

At the end of the 20th century, plastic became widely used as a versatile, durable and affordable material. Since most types of plastic take centuries to break down to microplastics and nano plastics, all the plastic ever thrown into nature is still there in some form. Our ecosystem does not have a chance to handle the amount of plastic that exists on our planet – or that is produced. To ensure a sustainable future, a drastic change in attitude towards plastic is required. Developing countries that import large amounts of plastic waste from Europe, the USA and Japan currently have a significantly lower recycling standard than what the developed countries can offer, which affects the value and demand for recycled plastics from these regions.

More plastic than fish

Our oceans receive about 8 million tons of plastic every year. This corresponds to several truckloads of plastic waste per hour. The amount of plastic in our oceans is estimated to double by 2025,

according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Scientists have predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish. 

 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Huge floating islands of plastic are formed when ocean currents drag floating plastic debris into the center of the vortex. The large floating islands of plastic debris are called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). The largest of them, consisting of 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, is floating around in the North Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California. The pulling motion in the vortex eventually breaks down plastic objects into smaller pieces, polluting the environment and forming microplastics. The microplastics (less than 5 mm) are perceived as food for many species in the sea. 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic particles.

5. What is the impact of ocean plastic waste on marine life?

In a report from the UN, it is explained that 80% of the litter in the ocean is plastic, and marine litter affects at least 800 species worldwide. (Source: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). There are several ways in which marine animals can be exposed to plastic – they can get caught in plastic objects (like the plastic rings that hold drinks cans together), consume the plastic or ingest plastic chemicals, which can change their physiology over time. There is an increased risk of death in sea turtles by ingesting only 10-15 pieces of plastic. Young turtles usually drift in the same currents as plastic waste and are thus seriously affected as their favorite food is jellyfish (their favorite food) – which are mistaken for plastic bags.

Ghost nets

Accidental and intentional losses of fishing nets (ghost nets) have become a major source of plastic pollution in the ocean. The ghost nets are particularly worrying because they passively remain and catch fish, seals, birds, turtles etc. for many years around the world. More than two-thirds of all sea turtles, two-thirds of all seal species, one-third of all whale species, and one-quarter of all seabird species have been reported to be entangled in fishing nets.

There are scientific reports of 89 species of fish and 92 invertebrates that are continuously entangled in fishing nets. There are approximately 700 fish, bird and animal species known to have been affected by marine plastic, including already threatened species. Plastic is eaten by almost all seabird species. New research shows that larval fish eat nanofibers in the first days of life, raising new questions about the effects of plastic on fish populations.

Ingestion of plastic can have several effects on the health of organisms. Large volumes of plastic can greatly reduce the ability of the stomach to digest, which leads to reduced appetite and a false sense of satiety. Plastic that is ingested causes a variety of problems such as tearing apart the intestinal tract or chafing holes in the stomach. It ultimately leads to a slow and painful death. Research on the potential health effects of microplastics on humans is ongoing, there is some evidence that suggests that exposure to microplastics may have negative health consequences for humans. For example, a review published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that microplastics can potentially affect human health through various pathways, including the release of chemical additives and the uptake of toxic substances.

Plastic microbeads are a serious problem.

Marine life can be seriously affected by these microbeads which are commonly found in toiletries such as face scrub, toothpaste, shower gel etc. Use of plastic microbeads in personal care products has been banned in many countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union.The tiny beads are transported from the sewage water. and usually passes the filtration of sewage treatment plants and then ends up in waterways and finally in the sea. According to marine biologists, the microbeads do not break down and can carry toxic chemicals into marine organisms. However, there are countries and states that allow microbeads made from biodegradable plastic to continue to be used. Knowledge of the microbeads’ effects is still far from clear.

6. Globally, how much ocean plastic is there out there?

In our last six decades, plastic production has accelerated so rapidly that 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced but unfortunately more than 81% of it has not been recycled! Since more than half of all plastic (approx. 60%) has a lower density than the density of seawater, the plastic floats on the surface of the sea. Although today we can estimate that 8 million plastics are floating around in our oceans, this is only a fraction of all the plastics that have over time sunk to the bottom or broken down into microplastics. According to the researchers, it is rather that nearly 250,000 tons of plastic end up below the surface every year.

The missing plastic problem

If we currently pollute our oceans with millions of tons of plastic every year, we must have released millions of tons over the last few decades. How is it then that you do not find the corresponding amount under the surface? Take a moment to reflect on that. This discrepancy is often referred to as “the missing plastic problem”.

 It’s a mystery that we must tackle if we want to understand where our ocean plastic is going and what effects it has had on our ecosystem and our health, as well as what consequences we have to look forward to.

Globally, approximately 583 million tons of plastic are produced annually as of 2015. Despite calls to reduce plastic consumption, increase reuse, and recycling, consumption has increased at breakneck speed. We see repeated signs that the planet has had enough. In addition to preventive measures, it is of the utmost importance to clean up our oceans from as much visible plastic products as possible. Once plastics break down into microplastics and reach the ocean floor and penetrate its sediments, they are virtually impossible to get hold of without causing even greater damage to the ecosystem. We must therefore ensure that unnecessary plastic, such as single-use items, ceases to be manufactured and that initiatives are taken that make it obvious to recycle used plastic products.

7. What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)?

The most well known example of the gigantic plastic accumulations in surface water is called the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (GPGP). As the chart below illustrates, the largest of these is in the North Pacific. The plastic accumulations are a result of the combined effect of the huge plastic dumping in the coastal regions, together with intensive fishing activity in the Pacific Ocean with dumped fishing nets, so-called ghost nets.

The GPGP consists of 1.8 billion pieces of plastic

In a 2018 Nature study, the researchers attempted to quantify the mass of GPGP. 99.9% of GPGP consists of plastic trawl samples taken. The size amounts to over 1.6 million square kilometers. It is roughly three times larger than the area of Spain. The GPGP consists of 1.8 billion pieces of plastic, with a mass of 79,000 tons. In recent decades, there has been an exponential increase in the concentration of surface plastics in the GPGP.

Originate from industrial activities

About 52% of the plastics in the GPGP originated from fishing activities and included fishing lines, nets and ropes etc. Another 47% came from hard plastics, plastic sheets and films;. The remaining components were small in comparison (barely 1%). The dominance of fishing lines, nets, hard plastics and films means that most of the pulp in GPGP has a large particle size, which should facilitate cleanup. Unfortunately, it is not that simple in practice when all the particles are entangled with each other with plastic ropes and nets. Attempts have been made to break up the GPGP formation but the elastic consistency makes it futile. Worth noting is that the majority of the plastic components in GPGP originate from industrial activities, such as the fishing industry, the construction industry and of course the packaging industry

Read more

8. Where do microplastics come from?

Microplastics are small plastic particles that are less than 5 millimeters in size. They come from a variety of sources, including personal care products, clothing fibers, and plastic waste that has broken down over time. Unfortunately, these tiny particles are having a significant impact on the environment, particularly the ocean.

When microplastics enter the ocean, they can be ingested by marine organisms, leading to physical harm, and even death. They can also accumulate toxins that can be passed up the food chain and ultimately harm human health. To reduce the amount of microplastics in the ocean, we need to take action at both the individual and industrial level.

One of the most effective ways to reduce microplastic pollution is to change our consumption habits. For example, we can avoid using products that contain microbeads, such as facial scrubs and toothpaste. We can also choose natural fiber clothing and textiles over synthetic ones, which shed microfibers when washed. Reducing our use of single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and straws, can also help.

On an industrial level, there are several methods that are being used to collect microplastics from the ocean. One of the most common is through the use of specialized nets and filters that can collect the tiny particles. For example, the Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit organization that has developed a floating system that uses passive drifting to collect plastics. The system uses a

screen to capture the plastics while allowing marine life to pass beneath it.

Another method involves using biodegradable materials that can break down in the ocean without harming the environment. For example, researchers are exploring the use of biodegradable fishing nets and ropes to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean.

In conclusion, microplastics are a growing concern for the health of our planet, particularly the ocean. To reduce the amount of microplastics in the ocean, we need to make changes to our consumption habits and take action on an industrial level. By working together, we can make a difference in protecting our environment for future generations.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology estimated that there are between 15 to 51 trillion microplastic particles currently in the ocean.

A study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that people ingest approximately 5 grams of plastic per week, which is equivalent to a credit card’s weight.

A recent study published in the journal Science found that microplastic pollution in the ocean is 10 times worse than previously estimated, with up to 14 million tonnes of microplastics deposited in the sea each year.

9. Where is the largest amount of plastic waste produced?

According to a 2018 report from the World Economic Forum, the countries that produce the most plastic waste are China, the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and India – also known as the Big Five. These five countries account for more than half of the plastic waste dumped in the world’s oceans. The amount of plastic waste from these countries is primarily based on low production costs with plastic components of varied product quality and with insufficient opportunities to be recycled in a simple and sustainable way. We welcome increased production and recycling responsibility going forward.

These countries contribute a disproportionate amount of plastic waste to the oceans due to a combination of factors such as low production costs, inadequate waste management infrastructure, and a lack of recycling opportunities. It is important for all countries to address these issues in order to reduce plastic pollution and protect the environment.

Do you have a hard time imagining where your waste goes? This film gives a clearer picture of what it unfortunately looks like in many of the rivers of the Philippines today.

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10. Why does plastic waste end up in the environment?

Plastic is readily available, cheap and easy to use.

From packaging materials to cheap plastic bottles, straws, food packaging and plastic bags. Plastic is malleable, affordable and most of them are hygienic material that few other materials can match. A few types of plastic can harbor bacteria and other microorganisms, which can be harmful to human health. The cycle of consumption that makes us consider disposable plastic items from valuable one second to worthless the next must be broken.

Urbanization in the world is increasing at a faster rate than the population. The more people there are in the world, the greater the demand for cheap materials, and in turn, the more plastic we use. Due to rapid urbanization and increasing demand for fast food, more plastic is soon being produced in this century than in the previous century. (Source: PlasticsEurope Trade Group).

Plastic is considered a disposable material in our society.

Straws, bottles and food containers, have a short lifespan for us, usually very short – sometimes only a minute or two before they are thrown away. Mass media news reporting would like us to have us believe that our easygoing approach to plastic is a new destructive behavior, but humanity has been acting more or less the same way for over 4 million years. Archaeological

excavations have shown that the big difference is that in the past our “water bottles” were made of clay, gourd or other materials that quickly decomposed after we consumed them and dumped them in nature. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from breaking the trend and doing the right thing today. However, it takes over 400 years to break down plastic in nature.

As a result of plastic’s chemical bonds, plastic is durable and long-lived. In general, plastics break down after 50 to 600 years in nature, depending on the type of plastic of course. As a result, almost every piece of plastic ever produced and discarded is still in the environment. The production of plastic items continues to increase and the date that all plastic is degraded is constantly being pushed forward to eternity.

Shipping and the fishing industry

Our oceans face a significant plastic waste and pollution problem due to irresponsible shipping and fishing industries. The dark figure of all systematic dumping in the seas from ships and dumped fishing nets is colossal and very difficult to prove in retrospect. Drifters catch marine animals around the clock year after year for no reason at all. Shipping and the fishing industry have not yet taken sufficient responsibility for their extensive damage.

11. What types of plastics should I be aware of?

Bioplastics

Isn’t bioplastic good? Well, especially if the alternative is that the plastic is otherwise made from fossil fuels. Bioplastics can be made from plant-based materials, such as flax seeds. Demand is steadily increasing.

A 2015 UN report states that the material properties are the same once the polymer is created. This means that this plastic does not differ significantly in quality from other plastics. Plastic consumption should be reduced wherever possible, regardless of whether it is bioplastic or not. Composting or recycling of bioplastics is not possible.

Compostable plastic

The concept of compostable plastic is very similar to that of biodegradable plastic, with the exception that the waste must be verified by an independent third party. When compostable plastic ends up in our oceans, it still poses the same challenges as biodegradable plastic. The material cannot be treated by most nations’ waste facilities, so it will be transported for incineration or landfill as a normal residual product. Regardless, all three types of plastic indicate that reduced consumption is, after all, the very best way to reduce plastic waste and pollution. Regardless of the type of plastic they are made from, our focus should be on eliminating single-use and non-recyclable plastics (such as polystyrene takeaway cups, trays and food trays).

Biodegradable plastic

Plastic that breaks down naturally into carbon dioxide, water and minerals is another option that has attracted a lot of attention. However, it is necessary for products to comply with national or international standards to be considered biodegradable.

Criteria for being called nbiodegradable plastic in Europe

  • Heavy metals must not be present in high concentrations. When exposed to natural processes (such as sunlight and hydrolysis), 90% of the plastic must be able to break down into CO2.
  • After 12 weeks of natural exposure, 90% of the plastic residues must be able to pass a net with 2 x 2 mm loops.
  • There must be no plant oxides in the final material.
  • The rate of degradation depends a lot on the type of plastic and the environment the plastic is in. In the ocean, the sun’s UV radiation and friction from the ocean’s wave action slowly break down the plastic. Once plastic has sunk to the bottom, it is buried in seabed sediment or covered with biofilm.

Unfortunately, bioplastics do not solve the problem of plastic in the ocean or prevent it’s harmful microplastics from being mistaken for food among marine animals. Biodegradable plastics are clearly misleading and certainly not a quick fix to plastic pollution. Many consider bioplastics as a smart solution to ignore sorting waste and be able to litter as before with a clear conscience. The only thing that solves the problem is a changed behavior, reduced plastic consumption and properly disposing of plastic waste is the key to addressing the issue of the plastic pollution.

12. What does PET stand for in recycling?

Polyethylene terephthalate, also called PET, is the name of a type of transparent, strong, light and 100% recyclable plastic. Unlike other types of plastic, PET plastic is not single-use – it’s 100% recyclable, versatile and made to be used over and over again.

The most used recycling method is mechanical recycling, which is based on producing clean PET flakes from torn PET bottles or similar products. These are used directly or mixed with new polymers in subsequent conversion processes to create other end products. The degree of purity of the recycled material is of great importance for the quality and value of the end result in this process.

Is PET toxic?

No. PET is a material that is widely accepted by health authorities as a safe plastic, which is one of the reasons why it is so commonly used in food and beverage packaging. Like glass, it is hygienic and resistant to attack by bacteria and other microorganisms. It is not the plastic that is the root of the problem, but human convenience and bad habits, society’s lack of access to sustainable waste management and, of course, the producers who do not take responsibility and take the necessary measures (e.g. deposit system).

Is recycled PET more expensice?

The clearer the recycled plastic, the higher its value and the higher its price, to the point that high-quality recycled PET can even be more expensive than newly produced PET (virgin plastic).

PET bottles are considered the cleanest types of plastic. Pretty much every authority in the world has accepted PET bottles for single and repeated use and is judged to be hygienic and resistant to bacterial attack and other microorganisms. 

PET bottles do not contain bisphenol-A (BPA), which is an industrial chemical that is otherwise used to make certain polymers and which is known to cause health problems.

What are the disadvantages of PET plastic?

Resins made from PET can oxidize, which can result in a deterioration of the taste of food and drinks that have been stored for a long time in PET packaging. PET is not a biodegradable plastic, which has significant consequences in nature due to its widespread use and the long persistence of the plastic.

How much crude oil is used to produce PET bottles?

There is a common misconception that plastics use a large portion of the world’s petroleum. plastic production accounts for around 4% of global oil production.

For a polymer to be categorized as “biodegradable”, more than 60-70% of the material must be degraded within 6 months in nature. PET does not meet these requirements and is therefore categorized as a non-biodegradable polymer.

Can PET be recycled endlessly?

PET plastic is infinitely recyclable. Recycling facilities may need to use additives during the recycling process to increase the viscosity and tensile strength of the recycled PET plastic.

Can PET become toxic??

Although PET is generally considered a “safe” plastic, PET does not contain the harmful substance BPA. In contact with heat, however, PET can leach antimony, a toxic metalloid in contact with food and drink, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers.

Which plastics cannot be recycled?

Examples of non-recyclable plastics are bioplastics, composite plastics, plastic-coated wrapping paper and polycarbonate. Well-known non-recyclable plastics include plastic wrap and blister packs.

How is PET recycled with chemicals?

When the PET raw material is mixed with an alcohol and combined with a catalyst and then heated, a terephthalic acid ester and ethylene glycol are formed, which thereby separates the components of the plastic.

Can bubble wrap be recycled?

Bubble wrap can usually be recycled together with other plastic films and thrown in designated recycling bins. However, they can cause a mess in the machines that are supposed to make flakes from them at the recycling plant. This means that some recycling facilities refrain from accepting bubble wrap for recycling.

14. How long does PET plastic take to decompose?

According to most researchers, products such as plastic bags, plastic water bottles and straws are estimated to take upwards of 450 years to break down. A rather frightening time perspective. One of the more recent innovations in bacterial waste management is helping us break down some plastics faster than 450 years. A new bacteria-based recycling process converts PET plastic into PHA plastic, which is both biodegradable and more economically valuable than traditional PET.

Researchers at University College Dublin, Ireland, have discovered a strain of bacteria called Pseudomonas. the bacteria produce the substance PHA when they feed on PET products. A research project called Daniel Burd’s science fair project has succeeded in isolating bacteria that can break down plastic bags. Together with sodium acetate, the bacteria melt down plastic in practically no time, just a few months, instead of 450 years. None of the new methods are ready for commercial application at present. They are potentially scalable for widespread use, but will take years of development

Expiration date on a water bottle 

Yes, it is generally true that the expiration date on a water bottle is for the plastic bottle itself, not for the water inside! Over time, plastic bottles can degrade and leach chemicals into the water they contain. This process can be accelerated by exposure to heat, sun light, and other environmental factors. While the amount of chemicals that leach into the water is generally small and considered safe for consumption, it is generally recommended

to drink bottled water before its expiration date to minimize any potential risks.

PET undergoes some degradation when exposed to sunlight for a long time. PET absorbs sunlight in a wavelength range that is at the end of the ultraviolet light spectrum (UV with wavelengths between 300 nm and 330 nm).

It’s worth noting that not all plastic bottles are created equal, and some types of plastic may be more prone to leaching than others. For example, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic is commonly used for water bottles and is generally considered safe for single use. However, some studies have suggested that reusing PET bottles or exposing them to high temperatures can increase the risk of chemical leaching. As a result, it’s generally recommended to avoid reusing single-use plastic bottles and to store them in a cool, dark place away from sunlight.

15. How does reducing plastic waste benefit the environment?

Reducing plastic waste helps protect wildlife, keep the environment clean, reduce ocean pollution, save resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By reducing plastic waste, we can help reduce the number of animals injured or killed by plastic pollution and help save resources used to make plastic products. In addition, reducing plastic waste helps reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere as a result of plastic production. Finally, reducing plastic waste helps prevent further environmental damage caused by the various toxic substances released from plastics.

The list of benefits and possibilities can be made endless. Reflect on how much we throw away every day that never really needed

to be produced. Here are some of the benefits of reducing the production of new plastics:

  • Use fewer new raw materials to prevent increased pollution (energy will be saved).

  • Emissions of greenhouse gasses, which contribute to climate change, are decreasing.

  • Reduce the amount of waste that needs to be recycled or burned in landfills and incinerators in developing countries.

  • It is cheaper to buy reusable items instead of constantly buying new plastic products.

16. What can you do to reduce plastic waste?

Identifying where the plastic emissions come from really matters in how we deal with it. Rich countries emit less plastic waste – meaning domestic strategies to reduce plastic in these countries won’t make much of a difference to ocean plastic. Rich countries, on the other hand, can help support low- to middle-income countries to improve waste management infrastructure. Improving waste management is a solution that the OceanLive team is passionate about. And even more important is to ban the export of all plastic to other countries where there is a risk of mismanagement.

Think before you drink

To stop plastic pollution in our oceans, we need a global strategy to reduce plastic waste and manage it appropriately to prevent it from leaking into the environment. Focusing on the worst affected rivers will have a big impact but will not be enough. The more you sort, the less OceanLive needs to remove from the oceans later. At any point, you should switch from plastic materials to paper, metal or glass, which are widely recyclable, to reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate. Using fewer plastic bottles, bags and plastic straws (or eliminating them altogether) can make a big difference.

You can make some simple changes in your daily life by following these steps:

  • Avoid buying more plastic bottles by bringing a glass or metal water bottle with you.
  • When you can, shop for used furniture and office furniture, which are often as good as new.
  • Use reusable shopping bags, such as cloth bags, when shopping.
  • Use reusable shopping bags, such as cloth bags, when shopping.

  • A significant way to reduce packaging in nature over time is to choose products that use less packaging when you shop.

  • Switch to paper, glass or metal options (preferably reusable) if you haven’t already.

Tips for reducing plastic waste for businesses:

It is our responsibility as a responsible company to recycle everything we can, sorting out paper, cardboard, glass, batteries and plastic. Determine if there is any way to increase the chances that these items will actually be recycled?

Keeping your mixed recycling clean and dry is a good way to avoid contaminating it with food or other substances.

In addition to this, you should consider making more environmentally friendly purchasing choices in your company. We all contribute to the unnecessary amount of plastic waste we generate every day by using plastic bottles, straws and plastic cutlery.

Consider hanging OceanLive’s sustainable waste management posters around your office to promote good recycling practices.

17. Are you using a responsible waste collector?

You may have been told that a high proportion of your waste is recycled, but this can be difficult to prove. Recycling collected from companies is often too heavily contaminated. As a result of poor recycling practices, it is unfortunately common that a large proportion of your mixed waste will not be recycled.

  1. Research and choose a plastic waste recycling company that is certified sustainable and has a good reputation.

  2. Ask to see the company’s waste management practices, such as how they sort and process materials and how they dispose of materials that cannot be recycled.

  1. Request references from other clients to ensure their practices are up to standard.

  1. Request a copy of their safety and environmental practices and policies.

  1. Request information on how the company monitors and measures its performance in terms of sustainability.

  1. Make sure the company is transparent with its practices and is willing to answer any questions you may have.

  1. Make sure all plastic waste is properly sorted and separated before sending it to the recycling company.

  1. Monitor the company’s progress and environmental declarations to ensure they follow their procedures.

Be aware of who handles your waste

Waste and especially plastic waste belongs to an authorized waste facility that can sort, separate, recycle and incinerate different plastics in a sustainable way. All too often our waste ends up in places where it doesn’t belong. Waste dumped in landfills often ends up in the ocean, where it poses an even worse problem. Far too many animals will die from plastic after mistaking it for food or getting stuck where they suffocate or starve to death.

For example, in 2019, a young beaked whale washed ashore in the Philippines and soon died. A necropsy revealed its stomach was clogged by more than 40 kg of plastic trash. A similar tragedy occurred in Greece in 2021.

18. Who produces the most mismanaged plastic waste?

Plastic waste does not belong in our oceans. It reaches rivers, streams and the sea if it has been handled incorrectly. Developing countries incinerate and recycle almost all plastic waste or send it to managed landfills. The waste is never openly exposed to the surrounding environment. Low- and middle-income countries tend to have poorer infrastructure for sustainable waste management. Waste is often dumped outside landfills, which are often open and leak waste into the surrounding environment. Mismanaged waste is material that is at high risk of entering the sea via wind, birds or tides, or being transported to coastlines from inland waterways. Improperly managed waste is the sum of residual material that is either littered or disposed of in an inadequate way by us humans.

Inadequate disposal and littering per capita in the Philippines, for example, is 100 times higher than in the UK, followed by India, China, Brazil and Nigeria.

Just over 1,000 rivers account for 80% of the global emissions of ocean plastic. The amount can vary between 0.8 million to 2.7 million tons per year, with small urban rivers being among the most polluted. The majority of intentionally dumped or mishandled plastic waste is likely to reach river networks and then accumulate in the sea. Climate, terrain, land use and distances within catchment areas affect the likelihood of mismanaged plastic waste being released into the sea. 

5 countries and 5 rivers in focus

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Science, about 60% of the plastic that enters the oceans each year comes from five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. These countries have relatively weak waste management systems and high levels of plastic pollution. The study found that about 20% of the plastic entering the oceans comes from just five rivers: the Amur, Haihe, Indus, Mekong and Niger. These rivers are located in countries with large populations and weak waste management systems.

19. What is the attitude of different countries towards plastics?

Bangladesh is a country that is considered to be at the forefront of pursuing a sustainable attitude towards plastic waste. As the first country in the world, they banned plastic bags already in 2002.

Does China no longer import any plastic waste?

China’s imports of waste from USA have fallen sharply over the past year. Imports of plastic waste have almost completely ceased altogether as an effect of their infected trade war. China has also stated that most of the plastic waste they received from USA was unsorted garbage that was too dirty to be sorted and recycled. According to data from The World Bank, China still imported around 7.3 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2020, making it the largest importer of plastic waste in the world.

Can PET become toxic??

Although PET is generally considered a “safe” plastic, PET does not contain the harmful substance BPA. In contact with heat, however, PET can leach antimony, a toxic metalloid in contact with food and drink, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers.

What does China do with its plastic?

China produced about 58 million tons of plastic waste in 2020, but only 16 million tons of this was recycled, according to the China National Resources Recycling Association. On average, only about 25% of the plastic used in China is recycled in some form.

Which countries do not recycle at all?

Chile was the worst in the world at recycling plastic. Less than 1% of their total use was recycled until recently. By 2020 accelerated and recycled approximately 35% of its plastic waste.

Which countries were the best at recycling in 2022?

Germany is one of the best in the world in recycling.

Many countries pride themselves on their progressive waste management and high recycling rates. Sweden, South Korea and Germany are among them, and Germany is often hailed as the world champion of recycling.

20. On a larger scale - how can waste be better managed?

By reducing the amount of plastic that is bought, used and discarded, companies and society in general can make a significant impact on the environment, According to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Even sorting facilities for recycling must also be at the forefront and maintain strict guidelines. In addition, it is important that everyone has a good understanding of where each piece of plastic goes after it has been incorrectly placed in mixed recycling. Waste can be used as a potential future resource if it is responsibly managed in the right way.

In addition, the plastics industry should take greater responsibility for the useful life of its products by introducing deposit systems, plastic recycling routines or upgrade programs. We need to end the “choke with a Coke era”. Supermarkets must adapt and change packaging in their range to make it easier for consumers to make responsible purchases. In order to protect the future of our planet, it is crucial to build positive momentum

and continue to change attitudes towards plastic waste as well as set strict demands on producers.

Plastics as a valuable resource

If we can think of waste as the resource it is, we can begin to capture many positive benefits for our communities. Cleaner environments, better water, improved tourism, new resource flows, energy savings from recycling, energy production from waste fuel etc provide tangible improvements for many sectors of society.

Waste management and especially marine plastic is one of the world’s biggest environmental challenges. The volumes of marine litter continue to increase as the world’s consuming population grows. Once plastic ends up in the ocean, it is difficult to assign legal responsibility to who is responsible for cleaning it up in the ocean. Today’s global regulatory framework focuses almost exclusively on maritime issues, which in itself is important, but it should put more resources into preventing littering upstream.

21. Why can't we burn all landfills?

Burning garbage in the open releases many toxic chemicals and pollutants into the air, such as dioxins, acids, sulfur dioxide, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (commonly known as BCPs) and heavy metals. These can have long-lasting effects on our ecosystem by damaging vegetation and have been shown to affect human health to a large extent. Burning plastic also releases carbon dioxide, which contributes to global climate change. In addition, burning plastic waste can create toxic ash that can contaminate land and water sources.

How can we melt down plastic without polluting?

The process of melting plastic to recycle it is called pyrolysis. There are various methods of pyrolysis that can be used to melt down plastic without releasing harmful pollutants into the environment. One method is called “cold pyrolysis,” which involves heating the plastic at a lower temperature without oxygen. This prevents the plastic from burning and releasing harmful pollutants. Another method is called “gasification,” which involves heating the plastic in the presence of oxygen to produce a synthetic gas, which can then be used as a fuel source. These methods of pyrolysis can be used to recycle a variety of plastic materials, including polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polystyrene (PS). However, it is important to note that

these methods require specialized equipment and expertise, and are typically not practical for individuals to perform at home.

At what temperature does PET burn?

The temperature for self-ignition of PET is 350°C. At temperatures above 350°C, strong heat generation, smoke, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide can occur.

What happens when PET starts to burn?

Burning plastics releases toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, acrolein and formaldehyde, dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as BCPs) into the atmosphere and poses a threat to the environment and human and animal health.

However, it is important to note that PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, has a relatively high ignition temperature and does not typically ignite easily. PET can be melted and reshaped through a process called thermoforming, but it should be done in a controlled environment with appropriate safety measures in place to avoid the release of harmful fumes. It is not recommended to burn plastic as a means of disposal or recycling.

22. It's not just vacations that come out of cruise ships

“Go on a cruise and leave a memory for life – or at least for 450 years”

Ships dump plastic in their garbage into the sea. In fact, plastic is a major source of ocean pollution, with an estimated 8 million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. The majority of this plastic comes from land-based sources, but ships are also responsible for a significant portion.

American law requires that cruise ships wait to empty their waste after about 56 miles from the coast – but beyond that there are no restrictions on the dumping of, for example, contaminated sewage and “greywater”. Scientists have estimated that over a billion liters of sludge from excrement and food scraps are released into the ocean every year by cruise lines.

Which countries still dump waste into the sea?

These countries are the biggest contributors to marine plastic (by 2022)

  1. USA – 42 billion kg
  2. India – 26.3 billion kg
  3. China – 21.5 billion kg
  4. Brazil – 10.5 billion kg
  1. Indonesia – 9.1 billion kg
  2. Russia – 8.4 billion kg
  3. Germany – 6.6 billion kg
  4. Great Britain – 6.4 billion kg

Why is it inappropriate to empty your waste into the sea?

If garbage is dumped in the sea, the oxygen in the water decreases. This affects the health of marine life due to lack of oxygen. Animals such as turtles, seals, dolphins, penguins, sharks, whales and herring can all die. Bottles and other plastics, including bags, can also suffocate, ensnare or cause a false sense of satiety for marine animals.

23. What industries and products use primary plastic?

Some companies have started to change their procedures. Unilever, for example, has pledged that by 2025 all its plastic packaging will be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable in a commercially viable way – Such companies’ commitments and innovations are a step in the right direction. But creating a plastic system that works requires cooperation between all players in the plastics sector. Public policy-making dialogues must be at the heart of any system shift, and policymakers play critical roles in acting to establish new sustainable guidelines for the industry and put processes in place to help it get there faster. Unfortunately, too much focus is placed on developing

biodegradable plastics, while the crucial problem remains how we manage our waste.

Industries dominate but declare a fraction

In the diagram we see the distribution of plastic production by the industrial sector for 2015. Packaging was the dominant use of plastic, with 42% of plastic entering the consumer stage. Construction was the second largest sector with 19% of total use. Plastic production does not directly reflect the generation of plastic waste, as this is also affected by the amount of polymer type and the lifespan of the final product. However, many countries allow companies to keep such information confidential.

To combat plastic waste and pollution, we need to raise awareness, set stricter demands on producers and create new habits. Plastic waste has recently received greater attention through organizations such as OceanLive’s project and the WHO. Despite this, there is still much work to be done to change attitudes and behaviors towards plastic, especially in our “throw away culture” of single-use plastic items.

To help, your business can support charities that pick harmful plastic from our oceans and also implement more sustainable practices and attitudes towards plastics. How much plastic will remain in the oceans in the coming decades? The study by Lebreton, Egger and Slat challenges the previous hypotheses that plastic in the surface ocean has a very short lifespan, breaks down quickly into microplastics and sinks to the depths of the ocean. Their results suggest that macroplastics may remain in our oceans longer than expected. They can also be temporarily buried in our beaches and coastlines to be released much later and reach our seas.

We can unfortunately expect continued increases in emissions into the oceans even if we stopped ocean plastic waste today because we have a large legacy of plastic buried on beaches and on our coastlines that could continue to resurface and be transported to the ocean unless fundamental action is taken .

How to quickly reduce the amount of both macro and microplastic in our oceans:

We must immediately stop behaviors that allow plastic waste to reach the world’s vulnerable waterways. Most of the plastic that ends up in our oceans does so because of a lack of waste management. This is particularly evident in low- and middle-income countries. To prevent this, authorities, decision-makers and producers must take greater responsibility for more sustainable consumption and waste management.

We must concentrate our efforts on immediately collecting and removing plastic already in our waterways and along coastlines. before they reach the ocean where they risk breaking down into microplastics.

The vast majority – 82 million tonnes of macroplastics and 40 million tonnes of microplastics (less than 5mm) – wash up, sink into the sand and resurface along the world’s coasts. Much of the macroplastic in our shorelines is from the last 15 years, but still a significant amount is older, suggesting it can persist for decades without breaking down. In the coastal areas, most macroplastics (79%) are newer – less than 5 years old. In marine environments, older microplastics have had longer to accumulate than in coastal areas. Most microplastics (three-quarters) are from the 1990s and earlier, suggesting that it can take decades for plastics to break down.

We must first understand the problem and what is causing it before we can take action.

The term plastic waste refers to the accumulation of plastic items in the environment that negatively affects wildlife, wildlife habitats and people. There is a significant amount of plastic that is not recycled and ends up in landfills or in unregulated landfills in the developing world. Over 550 billion plastic bottles were produced in 2022. That’s 100 billion more bottles than were produced just five years ago.

  • We consume a lot of plastic (such as plastic bottles and food containers) because it is cheap and durable. Because the chemical structure of plastic means that it degrades slowly (taking over 400 years or more), this poses an unsustainable problem.
  • In 2022, five billion plastic bags will be used. 5 billion is 5,000,000,000,000. It is such a large number that it is difficult to grasp the volume. Oh! that’s not just a problem, it’s a catastrophe!”
  • 81% of plastic around the world is not recycled.
  • The plastic enters our nature, pollutes our oceans and damages our ecosystem. Most plastic waste eventually ends up in the ocean in less developed countries, putting marine animals at risk. At this rate of plastic consumption, we will in a lifetime eat about 20 kg of microplastics per person.
  • To tackle the problem of plastic waste and pollution of our planet, we need to drastically reduce plastic consumption and increase commitment and awareness of plastic recycling.
  • In 1950, the world produced only 2 million tons per year. Since then, annual production has increased nearly 300 times, reaching 583 million tons in 2022. That’s roughly the mass of two-thirds of the world’s population.

  • The short decline in annual production in 2009 and 2010 was mainly due to the global financial crisis in 2008 – a similar slump in statistics is also seen across several metrics such as resource production and consumption, including energy.
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