The day of the oceans: The perfect moment to become aware
by Verónica Díez Lantarón on Mar 29, 2023
Plastic, plastic and more plastic. This is the reality of our seas and oceans. And it is that 80% of the garbage that lives in them is made up of plastic. Among them, single-use containers, bags and all kinds of items abound, each one more unnecessary. Today is World Oceans Day and we want to give visibility to a problem that is becoming more and more evident, but of which we are not yet fully aware. The manufacture and indiscriminate use of plastic continues to leave a devastating legacy that seriously compromises the ecosystem.
We unconsciously continue to consume single-use plastics without thinking further, but what really happens to them? The reality is, we have normalized it. We have normalized buying with automatic pilot, in a fast, "comfortable" and easy way. We have flooded our shower with plastics, as if once deposited in the yellow container the problem disappeared.
79% of all the plastic consumed on the planet, which is said little, ends up in landfills, incinerators or in the worst case in the environment, the oceans being the main recipients of them. The oceans occupy 70% of the planet, of which less than 3% are protected. This added to the increase in temperatures, acidification, eutrophication, fishing and the growing pollution generated by the high impact of single-use plastics, among others, represent a great environmental problem with devastating consequences.
In this article, we review the fundamental keys to understanding the problem and offering efficient solutions that as consumers we must begin to consider.
Plastic recycling, the big lie
The throwaway culture has educated us by omitting the problem and proposing short-term patches that offer "half solutions." One of the most popular solutions that has a large number of supporters and detractors is recycling. Despite the fact that in general terms it has great benefits, there are great exceptions, such as plastic, one of the most controversial materials in recent times.
When it comes to this material, the links in the chain are broken and efficiency disappears to become a tangible problem with a name and surname. Only 9% of the plastic produced and consumed worldwide ends up being recycled. The other high percentage of them does not have that luck, and ends up having a negative impact on the environment. It is estimated that the seas and oceans receive 12 million tons of plastic per year.
Plastic landfill with single-use packaging that will NOT be recycled
If we add to all this the fact that only 4 types of plastic out of all those on the market end up being recycled, and 80% of the garbage in the seas is plastic, we find ourselves before an overwhelming figure, which casts doubt on the true efficiency of said process:
- Of all the single-use plastic packaging consumed globally, only 25% ends up being recycled.
- Many containers made of colored PET are discarded, as is the case with all those that are smaller.
- The growing difficulties in the separation and classification process lead to discarding batches suitable for recycling.
- The low profitability of this process makes the idea of exploiting virgin material more juicy.
- Loss of quality or downcycling. Unlike other materials, plastic loses its initial quality when it is recycled, making it impossible to be recycled more than once.
Climate change and plastics in the oceans
Remember that 79% of plastic waste ends up in the environment, we are facing an alarming figure that predicts the worst of environmental threats. This situation added to the indiscriminate consumption of plastic and its massive production (Spain is the fourth country in the European Union that produces the most plastic) puts our ecosystem in check, warning us of an increasingly tangible threat on our coasts.
Deliberate dumping and various weather conditions such as wind and storms accelerate the movement of plastic waste into the seas and oceans. When these residues end up on the seabed, they can take hundreds of years to degrade, a long process that will depend on their characteristics, the depths at which they are found and their consequent environmental conditions.
But we are only aware of 15% of the surface plastics in these. Have you stopped to think about what is hidden in the depths of the oceans? Much waste is submerged on the seabed, and plastics can be found at a depth of 10,000 meters. This fact considerably delays the degradation process.
Plastic soups, an unprecedented environmental catastrophe.
But not only large plastics pose a significant threat, but also microplastics. These are small plastics of less than 5mm that are the product of the degradation of larger plastics. On many occasions these microplastics are present in cosmetics that we regularly use as body scrubs and toothpastes, ending up in seas and oceans.
This problem does not end here, since these "harmless small plastics" are not biodegradable. This poses a high risk for marine species, since these mini plastics attract toxins and bacteria that adhere to the shiny surface of the plastics and animals mistake them for food, thus ending up in the food chain. Countless marine species confuse them with food and end up ingesting them, putting their health and that of future consumers at risk.
Microplastics on beaches, an "invisible" threat
Sustainable consumption a powerful tool for change
Surely at this point in the article you are beginning to understand that more effective methods are needed to tackle the root problems and offer real solutions. Consumerism has established itself in our society with serious consequences for the planet. And the only solution is to evolve towards a sustainable consumption that eliminates single-use plastics from the equation.
The current urgency is to change the way we consume towards one that is more connected to the needs of the planet. It all starts when you are aware of the true impact that consumption generates, and you decide to value more sustainable options. This involves a search process with many options available.
You can start with simple actions like these:
- When you make a purchase, opt for bulk options that avoid the consumption of overpackaged products.
- Bet on circular fashion, clothing rental or second-hand clothes. They are efficient options that give away second chances without the need to purchase a "new" product.
- Look for sustainable brands that carry out ethical production that takes into account the environment and the efficiency in the use of resources.
- Consider other less "comfortable" but healthier and more ecological options that you can start incorporating into your daily routine.
- Make a staggered transition to solid cosmetics. This type of cosmetics, in addition to using a lower percentage of water, avoids plastic containers. Assuming a breakthrough for society.
- Avoid cosmetics with microplastics, carefully read the INCIS of cosmetics to prevent them from bypassing the filtering systems.
A small gesture can change everything if more awakened minds decide to take the plunge. Remember: It starts when you consume and ends in the oceans. Sign the Greenpeace petition to protect the oceans!