Plastic is the environmental disaster that just wont go away. Literally. It can take up to a thousand years for one plastic bottle to biodegrade. Before that it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, creating what we now know as 'microplastic pollution'.
These tiny, often invisible, bits of plastic are plaguing the oceans and permeating the species that exist in and on it. Studies have now even found evidence of microplastics in human faeces. It really does feel as though we are 'Drowning in Plastic'; as though we are being consumed by a plastic parasite that is systematically destroying our seas and choking the land to death.
And we created this monster. Just over a century ago, plastic was little more than an exciting discovery among leading chemists. They could not know that 100 years down the line, through our penchant for single-use disposability, the planet and our bodies would be engulfed in the stuff; that plastic waste would be clogging-up habitats all over the globe and endangering millions of species.
Collectively we are to blame; however, collectively we can also make a difference. Here are six terrifying facts about plastic, along with actions we can take to be part of positive change for the future.
Ingested plastic residue disrupts hormonal balance
We are only just beginning to fathom the extent of which the plastic problem is affecting us. One major detriment in the early stages of discovery, is how plastic disrupts our endocrine system.
Given that hormones are what make our bodies tick; throughout our entire lives and not just around the time of puberty when it is common for people to simultaneously be learning about them in school and experiencing them in relation to sex, this is a cause for great concern.
Out of whack hormones can contribute to all manner of health problems and general lack of wellbeing. There have been a number of studies, which have produced disturbing results about how various plastic residues are altering how our bodies function. BPA, for example, found in plastic bottles and food containers, has been seen to mimic the hormone estrogen. This can result in complications during puberty, menopause and in some cases cancer.
ACTION: Try to avoid plastic as much as possible. Don't drink or eat from it, especially after it's been heated up as this can cause the toxic chemicals to be released. Wash your hands if you come into contact with it and make every effort to use other, safer more sustainable, materials instead.
Every single toothbrush you've ever owned still exists
Toothbrushes are used by people the world over, which equates to billions of little plastic sticks being tossed into the bin and carted off to landfill every year. Just imagine the total for this past century, since they came into existence in 1938.
And get this, they're all still here. Every single toothbrush you have ever thrown away is currently sat in a landfill site somewhere, contributing to the planet's pollution problem.
ACTION: Buy biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes instead.
An average family of 4 uses 2,764 plastic items per year
And where are these 2,764 plastic items destined for? Landfill mostly, after some minimal use; there to corrupt the environment for hundreds of years to come.
Single use plastic is one of the most irresponsible developments and biggest mistakes that we've made during our relatively short and volatile existence as a species here. One that generation upon generation to come will have to pay for.
ACTION: Generate less plastic waste for landfill by recycling effectively and reducing plastic use where possible.
There are more microplastics in the sea than stars in the milky way
This fact is effective in illuminating the true extent of the microplastic problem present in our oceans. While bigger pieces of plastic waste can, potentially, be extracted from the ocean and disposed of in a more responsible manner, as it stands there is no feasible way to address the microplastics polluting our environment and entering the food chain.
ACTION: Recycling your plastic waste reduces the amount that ends up in landfill, and in turn is kept away from the sea.
Plastic bottles could inhibit your fertility
Drinking water from plastic bottles exposes you to harmful substances which pollute the body, disrupt the endocrine system and cause cancer.
Studies have proven a link between plastic consumption and a rise in human diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. It can also inhibit fertility in both men and women. Try to cut it out of your life as much as you can. One way being to stop buying and using plastic drinks bottles.
ACTION: Instead, buy a plastic free variety instead and keep it topped up with filtered tap water.