Plastic Soup

22 Sep

It is hard to argue that the versatility of plastic has increased our quality of life over the past sixty or so years.

It is a cheaper alternative for manufacturing, light, strong and relatively easy to work with.

Most of us are aware that there are environmental issues surrounding plastic, but do you know the extent of the problem?

A lot of us have seen photos of marine life tangled in plastic and been motivated to change our habits.  We say no to plastic bags when it is convenient to us and put recyclable plastic in the recycling bin when there is one around.

I believed that level of effort was enough, until I heard about “Plastic Soup”.

Plastic Soup is the name given to the plastic that makes its way into our waterways and eventually our oceans.  The plastic breaks down over time but it never decomposes. Instead it degrades into smaller pieces, right down to molecular level.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), only about 10 percent of the roughly 300 million tons of plastic produced each year is recycled, and about 7 million tons end up in the world’s oceans.

It is swept by ocean currents and congregates in the nine oceanic gyres, which are large vortexes in the world’s oceans.  The largest of these gyres is in the North Pacific Ocean and has become known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, spanning from the coast of California to the coast of Japan.

Here, the degraded plastic mixes in with microscopic plankton.  In fact researchers, who have been trawling this area to gauge the extent of the problem, have concluded that there is over six times the amount of microscopic plastic particles as there is plankton.

Plankton, is the initial food source for almost all species of fish larvae.  The concentration of plastic can reduce the nutritional intake affecting larval survival, and therefore their breeding success.

What is more, the plastic also absorbs other manmade chemicals and poisons, which are ingested by fish that eventually end up on our dinner table.

So the question is, are you conscious of your “Plastic Footprint”?

You can start by reviewing the use of plastics in your business.  Consider areas where you may be able to eliminate the use of plastic or at least reduce, recycle and reuse.

You may also want to consider your options when purchasing items for your business that are made from plastic.  Is there a recycled product available, or is the plastic used recyclable?

Say no to plastic bags and offer alternatives to your customers.

As social awareness grows around this issue and we become less accepting of the consequences of plastic in the environment, governments will be forced to introduce policy measures to control and reduce it.  Starting on a strategy that lessens your reliance on plastics in the future will make this easier and cheaper when that happens.


3 Responses to “Plastic Soup”

  1. Pigeon Heart September 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    yeah, the garbage patch is nuts. Apparently several exist!

    • businessexplorer September 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

      There are nine all up, five large and four smaller ones in the ocean gyres. I can’t imagine how the damage can ever be reversed…

  2. businessexplorer September 28, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Mark Gibson from Breaching the Blue sent me this link on the development of a metric for businesses to measure their plastic footprint.

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