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Suffocating in plastics

Suffocating in plastics

The backlash against plastic use has been both swift and brutal. It’s had companies (rightfully) having to scramble to make use of other alternatives and even change product composition. 

BUT, how bad is the plastic problem? Sure, we see plastic litter in our streets, but collection and recycling will sort that out, no?

NO. Plastic usage has risen so dramatically over the past 70-years that collection and recycling facilities have not been able to keep up. 

In fact, according to WWF, only 18% of recyclable plastics are recycled worldwide.  The rests end up in the ocean or our over-strained landfills.  According to Plastic Ocean, 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year. Half is single-use. More than 10-20 million tons of discarded plastic ends up in our oceans every single year (Worldwatch Institute in 2015.). That's as much as a truckload of plastic waste every minute.

Chis Wilcox, an ecologist at CSIRO explains how waste-collection and recycling efforts are hopeless in the face of such magnitudes. 

“If we are doubling what we are putting into the ocean on a ten-year basis, there’s no way to keep up… It would be as if you were vacuuming your living room, and I’m standing in the doorway with a bag of dust and a fan. You can constantly keep vacuuming, but you could never catch up.”

South Africa

How do we measure up? South Africa has a higher recycling rate of 35% for plastics and we consume on average 30kg -50kg per person per year. That’s according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

Plastic in our Oceans:

A lot of media attention is focused on plastic pollution in our oceans. We’ve all heard that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050 and seen photos of dead seabirds (and whales) which have starved to death because their stomachs are full of plastic instead of food. 

Our planet and ecosystems have incredible resilience. Remove all humans from Earth right now, and in 50-years wildlife will be flourishing where it was once non-existent (just look at the animal oasis Chernobyl has created). But humans are not going to be gone in 50-years, in fact, there will be more of us: consuming more products and producing more waste. 

We need a plastic-free revolution

Revolutions need two things -  1) knowledge to incite action and 2) opportunity to act.

At mielie mailer, we’ve created an opportunity for consumers and companies to act through our innovative products. Our hope is for this blog to provide the knowledge to incite that action. One of the biggest motivators for the creation of this company was learning what we were doing to our wildlife - who by the unlucky coincidence of inhabiting a planet filled with humans, are suffering at unprecedented rates. Here are some quick-fire facts, which we hope will motivate you to the same extent. 

  • 50% of all plastics are used to manufacture single-use items which are discarded soon after they are first used. Plastic shopping bags, of which 2-billion are used and discarded of each year in South Africa, have a working life of just 15-minutes…
  • There is 500 times more plastic in our ocean than stars in our galaxy… that’s 51 trillion pieces of microplastics
  • By 2050, an estimated 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic.
  • On that note, 1-million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
  • Plastic takes 450 years to break down, and even then we just mean break-down into smaller pieces of plastics, known as micro-plastics.
  • At least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales, and fish. 15% of those are endangered.
  • Plastic has been found floating in all the world’s oceans, everywhere from polar regions to the equator. It has even been found in our oceans deepest trenches.

And lastly, EVERY BIT OF PLASTIC EVER MADE, STILL EXISTS.

For more information about #ClimateChange#PlanetOrPlastic and #LivingPlanet, subscribe to The Mielie Maverick. It’s our weekly newsletter.

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