The Plastic Revolution

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The Revolution

Single Use Plastics

Single Use Plastics

200 years ago was around the time of the industrial revolution. It changed the world and has shaped what we know as life today. We are now in the midst of a new revolution that will once again shape the world in the centuries to come,  the plastic revolution. The manufacturing of plastics has worked it’s way into literally every product we use today and as you are about to find out has some serious side effects to not only the way we live, but also the effect on the environment and wildlife around us. It’s not pretty and getting uglier by the day. Unfortunately for many reasons many of us are oblivious to the issues surrounding these plastics. Especially the single use plastics. Here in this post I want to use one piece of plastic that is widely consumed in Indonesia to highlight the issue and clarify the effects it is having on the world around us. It’s the plastic cup of water. I imagine it is used in many poor Asian countries or countries classified as 3rd world countries that are yet to provide clean drinking water to the majority of the population.

Of course there are many many items on a daily basis that are used one time and discarded. For countries like Indonesia with a population of more than 240 million it becomes a real problem. Not just for the people but also for the environment and the wildlife that inhabit the world around us. The problem is there is no system to take care of this large volume of rubbish that is consumed daily. Secondly there is no education. If people were more aware or understanding of the issues of discarding the likes of plastic rubbish they might take more care or responsibility for their actions.

A gallery of the rubbish washed up on Bengkulu Long Beach and flooding in Jakarta due to blocked drains

The Plastic Cup

The population of Indonesia is more than 240 million people. It is safe to say that millions of these cups are consumed in Indonesia each week, possibly even each DAY due to the fact that there is no safe drinkable water around a lot of Indonesia.

plastic on the beach in bengkulu

Plastic on the beach in bengkulu

Let’s do some conservative math. If only 10 percent of the population drink one of these cups every day, that would make approximately 24 million cups consumed every day. With no real system or place for this trash, most people either burn their trash on the side of the street or just toss it on the ground without any thought of the consequences. We can’t blame the majority of the people as they have no idea of the consequences and are brought up to think that tossing their rubbish on ground is simply the norm and is ok. Of course it’s not as I hope to illustrate below.

A short walk along the beach on the west coast of Sumatra reveals plenty of plastic cups washing up on the shore.

A short walk along the beach on the west coast of Sumatra reveals plenty of plastic cups washing up on the shore.

So let us estimate that 50 percent of the 24 million burn their plastic cup in their daily rubbish pile. Then we have 12 million people who toss the cup in the street or generally on the ground. Out of those 12 million cups that end up on the ground some will end up in make shift drains, either blocking the drains causing flooding in the rainy season or make their way eventually to the ocean through this drainage system. So let us estimate a conservative ONE PERCENT of that 12 million successfully enters the drainage system to one day end up in the ocean when the rainy season comes. That is a conservative 120,000 plastic cups per day eligible to enter the ocean, and it’s safe to say from what I have witnessed that there are plenty getting into the ocean and remember its just one piece of plastic trash out of the many 1000’s of types consumed every day. If you think about it over a period of 1 year approximately 44 million plastic cups could potentially enter the ocean every year. It’s a scary thought and even scarier realization when you witness the beaches of Indonesia first hand. Remember also this is just Indonesia. Many other Asian counties experience the same issues.

Berdiri Event: Clean up Long Beach Bengkulu

Check out the event that was held recently to start the process of cleaning up the Long Beach in Bengkulu. It’s a combination of actually cleaning the beach and helping to raise awareness of the locals and to be more responsible with their trash.

Cleaning up Bengkulu Long Beach

Cleaning up Bengkulu Long Beach

Jakarta Flooding

It doesn’t take much to flood the streets of Jakarta due to the tonnes of rubbish left on the streets clogging the drainage systems.

The Rubbish

As you can see in this photo when it floods the rubbish has no where to go and is blocking any kind of drainage.

The Effect

Plastic inherently doesn’t break down naturally but photodegrades over a period of time. Sometimes one year and extending out to many years. As the plastic photodegrades the particles become smaller but remain polymer and plastic. They soon become small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms, thus entering the food chain. Not only does this happen but there are also chemicals that are leached into the ocean as the plastics photodegrade. Plastic rubbish is also spotted by sea birds that mistake the plastic for food that they provide their young, leading to a slow painful death to birds in the effected areas of our major oceans as you can see in the documentary preview Midway.

Read About: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Solutions

1. There is obviously a mammoth effort needed to clean up what is already a mess in the 5 gyres in our oceans. One great solution has been put forward by  a 19 year old Boyan Slat. This idea of skimming across the top of the ocean is simple and effective. But we must be aware that this is only half the solution. We need to stop the process of this rubbish entering into our oceans and a big effort is needed from governments of all countries as the earths population grows and grows so does the piles of rubbish entering the oceans.

2 No more single use plastics. This is one of the biggest contributors to the problem. To distribute drinkable water we need to substitute single use plastics such as the small plastic cup for refillable and reusable containers. It’s a bit of a process but really needs to happen and happen fast.

3. Implement and teach nations about recycling. Recycling is simply non existent in comparison to other 1st world countries and this needs to be implemented along with education to teach people how and why we should recycle.

4. Encourage governments to provide systems. Not just recycling but implement better systems to effectively dispense of the many millions of tonnes of trash to prevent it from entering into our oceans.

Do you have any thoughts or feedback on this information. Any solutions that you might want to add to this? Please leave your valued comments below.

 

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