Pollution : Les océans sont-ils remplis de plastique ?

Pollution: Are the oceans full of plastic?

Plastics: Report on marine pollution.

The origins of plastic.

For more than 50 years, plastics have invaded our daily lives.

For manufacturers, plastic represents an ideal material.

Inexpensive, strong, light, resistant to corrosion and many chemicals, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic are manufactured each year.

It is used in almost all sectors: construction, automotive, electronics, etc.

But above all, more than half of the plastic produced is intended for product packaging. Their use is therefore often limited to very ephemeral use.

However, for these packaging, only their use is ephemeral.

Who is responsible for plastic pollution?

Despite our best efforts, the sturdy nature of plastic makes it extremely difficult to contain and manage.

Even the best waste management systems struggle to prevent it from entering the environment.

Scientists are making breakthroughs with innovations such as plastic-eating enzymes, but these are still in their early stages and are unlikely to even be able to stop all the plastic we produce from entering in the environment.

To tackle this problem, we need to go to the source, which is the creation of plastic products and plastics themselves.

    Where does the plastic go?

    In landfills

    If you throw plastic in the regular trash, not recycling, that's where it will go.

    That is if it doesn't get blown overboard along the way. Once in a landfill, plastic can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade.

    Plastic bags from 10 years old and bottles over 450 years old.

    When plastic eventually breaks down, it does so into tiny particles that can sometimes leach into soil and water.

    These are the famous microplastics – pieces of less than 5 millimeters – and they are found everywhere.

    In nature

    It is estimated that 79% of plastic is found in nature.

    But the natural world wasn't ready for plastic. It is, after all, unnatural.

    Plastic has been found on the deepest seabed, in Arctic ice and in distressing quantities on remote islands in the middle of the oceans.

    When plastic enters the oceans, it decomposes more quickly and releases toxins.

    Plastic pollution is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of sea creatures every year. beach cleaning

    Fun fact: Largest beach cleanup removed nearly 30,000 tons of plastic from one beach alone

    You are probably already very aware of the plastic problem in our oceans, but what about on land?

    A recent study found that 1,000 metric tons of plastic, or 125 million bottles, fell into just 11 of America's national parks last year.

    It is carried there by the same wind, rain and snow that carry dust and sand around the globe.

    Plastic as an air pollutant is still being researched, but it's extremely likely that we're breathing it in, which brings us to the next potential step in our journey.

    In our body

    Scientists estimate that, overall, we eat one plastic credit card every week.

    It enters us through clothing, the products we use that contain microparticles, as well as through the food we eat.

    Microplastics have been found in everyday foods and drinks, such as water, beer, shellfish and salt.

    Scientists estimate that we eat around 5g of plastic per week

    The health risks are still being studied, but it appears that certain chemicals in plastic can cause hormonal imbalances that, among other things, impact children's development.

    You can learn more about the health risks here.

    Recycled into something else

    A small percentage, 9%, of plastic waste is recycled into something else.

    Despite your best efforts at home, this is how much is actually transformed into a new product.

    Another problem is that most plastics can only be recycled 2-3 times before becoming unusable, after which they are sent to landfills.

    Treatment of plastic waste.

    Having fantastic resistance properties, plastic is made to last. Sometimes it's a few decades, sometimes it's almost a millennium!

    When this plastic is not carefully sorted and recycled, it ends up finding its way into nature, particularly in our oceans.

    In France, around 20% of plastics are recycled and only 9% globally. You read correctly. 91% of plastic waste is not recycled!

    Billions of waste of all kinds are dumped into the oceans, the vast majority of which is plastic, to the tune of 10 to 20 million tonnes each year.

    On the surface, they represent the vast majority of floating objects. On average, 70 to 80% of waste discharged at sea is transported by rivers. They therefore do not mainly constitute a consequence of maritime activities.

    Once at sea, most plastic waste floats to the surface in the form of macro-plastics, water bottles, plastic bags and other packaging .

    After a few years of degradation, this waste transforms into micro-plastics which, carried over enormous distances by ocean currents, float to the most remote areas of the planet.

    Indeed, ocean gyres, these gigantic marine whirlpools of several thousand kilometers, form a veritable soup of tiny plastic debris, veritable “continents of plastic”.

    The Mediterranean, an almost closed sea, suffers from the highest density of micro-plastics in the world: 115,000 particles per square kilometer.

    It is estimated that nearly 90% of the maritime surface is polluted , and the quantity of plastic is 10 times greater than that of plankton.

    The impact of plastic on the oceans and biodiversity.

    Pollutants, additives, plastic polymers and other harmful substances are absorbed by marine microorganisms.

    Microplastics can be directly ingested by most species of plankton, small fish but also filter-feeding organisms such as mussels or oysters. However, all of these organisms represent the first links in the food chain.

    Macro-waste has a direct and clearly visible impact. Around a million seabirds and 100,000 turtles and marine mammals die each year from this pollution, trapped in plastic bags or nets, in which they die of starvation or strangulation.

    Often, these animals succumb after ingesting plastic waste, mistaking it for prey. Turtles often tend to confuse jellyfish and plastic bags.

    Animals at the end of the food chain consume prey whose tissues have high concentrations of pollutants.

    In general, Man, often the last predator, is the most affected by this consequence of his own pollution... Plastic components, pesticides, heavy metals contaminate our food and, ultimately, our tissues.

    This pollution therefore has direct consequences on biodiversity and health, even if they are still too little known.

    In addition to endocrine disruptors such as plastic additives (phthalates, bisphenol A, flame retardants, etc.) and pesticides, other molecules which are not toxic in themselves can have dramatic consequences on the human body ( cancers, alteration of functions such as growth, development, behavior, sleep, blood circulation, energy use as well as sexual and reproductive functions in particular).

    Responsible alternatives to plastic.

    Many alternatives to plastic exist, including bio-plastics, polymers derived from natural elements such as corn, hemp or castor oil, but also more traditional materials such as wood, glass or metal.

    How to remove plastic from your life?

    As we've discussed, plastic is everywhere and hidden inside products where you least expect it, including paper cups and tea bags.

    You can reduce the amount of plastic you use by switching to products made from natural or eco-friendly alternatives such as biodegradable plastics.

    Glass and aluminum are infinitely recyclable, although if they end up in the environment they can take just as long, if not longer, to decompose (glass lasts up to 1 million years ) and there is a limit to what we can produce with them.

    You can easily avoid plastic in your daily life by:

    • Take a reusable bag to do your shopping
    • Use aluminum foil or beeswax wraps to keep food fresh
    • Grab a reusable coffee cup, bottle or thermos to hold your favorite beverage
    • Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush
    • Say no to plain plastic cutlery, try bamboo cutlery instead.

    Changing your consumption patterns is easy and helps protect nature, biodiversity and our health.

    So why wait?

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