The problem

The problem

We cannot continue like this

Plastic pollution has become one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time. Worldwide, on average eight billion kilos of plastics end up in our oceans every year – that is 23.000 kilos every single minute(!). We believe we can tackle this problem together. We need to share knowledge and inspire change. Focus on what we can do and tackle the problem at the source!

“Industrial pollution and the discarding of plastic waste must be tackled for the sake of all life in the ocean.”

David Attenborough

Filmmaker and natural historian

481.6

billion

plastic bottles are sold every year. Which are almost 70 bottle per person living on this planet. Tip: bring a reusable bottle and fill it up!

Source

%

of plastic produced is packaging. Most packaging is only used once and has a high chance of ending up in nature.

Source

The problem

It is complicated

Plastics – ranging from large to microscopically small – are everywhere. With our research we find these plastic fragments in all our waters and during all our beach clean ups. Plastics end up in the environment during their whole life cycle. Once in nature the are impossible to clean up. In the environment they have devastating effects on animals and plants. Although we don’t know exactly how plastic harms the human body, it cannot be healthy that European seafood eaters consume up to 11.000 (!) pieces of plastic every year.

%

of marine plastic comes from land. Plastic waste enters our oceans via different routes with a dominant role for rivers. Waterways transport the pollution from the inland and cities to the sea.

%

of the dolphin and whale species are impacted by plastic pollution. In total 3708 species are described by science to be affected by plastic and there are many more to follow.

%

of marine plastic pollution is currently missing. Possible causes are that is has sunk to the ocean floor or beached and burried under the sand. More research could clarify this.

As humans, we created a system completely interwoven with plastic and seem to be dependent on it. We, as The Ocean Movement, do not necessarily see plastic as an evil thing but the way we use it needs to change. This finds its fundament in the throw-away culture. Should we use plastic for products that we use for a short period, breakdown easily into microplastics, and/or have a high chance ending up in nature? Therefore we should focus on the sources of plastic pollution and search for real solutions at the source.

It is a complex problem and therefore there is not just one solution.

What you can do

How about...

Alternatives and solutions

Biobased plastics

Could switching to biobased plastics be a solution? The addition of“bio” makes it sound like a more sustainable alternative, but there are still a lot of considerations to be made. 

Biobased means it is made from a renewable resource which means it is not necessarily different in chemical composition from regular plastic. There is still a large amount of biobased plastics that harm the environment, can not be recycled, and are a risk to humans. 

Plastic made from plants instead of fossil fuels requires vast amounts of farmland. This in itself could cause environmental problems and takes away valuable food supplies. It’s also not yet sure that biobased plastics do not cause damage when they are composted. Some claim they make soil and water more acidic.

Read more about the pro’s and con’s of biobased plastics.

Compostable 

And then there is the term “compostable” which in theory means that biobased plastics are broken down by microbes, but they can be turned – alongside food and other organic waste – into compost. This however, only is true for a minority of the plastics we are using at home. In most cases, the label “compostable” means industrially compostable, so only with the right kind of industrial equipment.

Read more about “compostable plastics”.

And then there is the term “compostable” which in theory means that biobased plastics are broken down by microbes, but they can be turned – alongside food and other organic waste – into compost. This however, only is true for a minority of the plastics we are using at home. In most cases, the label “compostable” means industrially compostable, so only with the right kind of industrial equipment.

Read more about “compostable plastics”.

Recycling

Could that be a solution? Nope. Sorry. Although the industry hides behind the possibility of recycling, few plastics actually get recycled. In the US not even 10% and in Europe about 15% of all plastics get recycled. The mechanical recycling that dominates today is hampered by contamination and a high variety in plastic waste streams. And those plastics that are recycled usually get turned into less-valuable products.

Read more about the challenge of recycling.

Clean ups

Yes, it is satisfying to clean up beaches, hopeful to see multi million dollar mechanical devices set out onto the oceans to fish for plastics, but it is not as simple as it seems. Nobody knows exactly how much plastic trash is in the ocean, but scientists estimate that some 244,000 metric tons might bob on the surface, and another 8.5 million metric tons may sink to the sea floor every year. And this amount is expected to triple over the next century. No cleaning up effort will be able to keep up. We need to approach the problem from multiple angles.

Read more about clean ups.

Some pointers

  • On average 8 billion kilos of plastics end up in our oceans every year – that is 23.000 kilos every single minute.
  • As humans, we created a system completely interwoven with and dependent on plastic.
  • Biobased and compostable plastics are still debated as a safe alternative for regular plastics.
  • Few plastics actually get recycled.
  • 8.5 million metric tons sink to the sea floor every year. No cleaning up effort is able to keep up.
  • We need to stop the plastic problem at the source: minimize single use and prevent plastics ending up in nature.

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What you can do

Check out these tips.

It’s not only easy, it’s also fun and rewarding using less (single-use) plastics and preventing plastic from ending up in our oceans. Check out these tips and feel free to contact us if you have any suggestions!

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What can I do

2021 The Ocean Movement - Created by Wilde Amsterdam & Webbakery