What is the Most Dangerous Single-Use Plastic Product?
Since the dawn of storytelling, the ocean has been home to all sorts of imaginary nightmarish monsters of the deep. Giant tentacled krakens, skyscraper sized sharks, and vengeful white whales all hunt for ways to cause destruction, but the most terrifying monster of all is also the most real: plastic. It’s been estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic go into the ocean on a yearly basis, according to a scientific publication from 2015, and most of that is single-use plastic products. Not only does all that garbage go in, it stays in for hundreds of years. Whole oceanic ecosystems are destroyed by it, sealife is killed by it, and we continue to pile it in, year after year.
The Plastic ProblemThe problem with plastic is simple. It just doesn’t biodegrade. The microorganisms that break down organic matter over time, well, they just won’t touch the stuff.
Eventually, plastic will degrade in a sense. After one or two hundred years, it breaks down into microplastics. Microplastics are just much smaller pieces of plastic, which makes them perhaps even more dangerous since they’re easier for wildlife to eat. You might be thinking “Well I’m not going to eat plastic, even if it’s really small!” But fish will eat it, and then something might eat those fish and something might eat that something and then that something might end up on your dinner plate. See where we’re going with this? And that’s not even considering how the destruction of ecosystems means there’s less for us to eat in general, until maybe one day there’s nothing at all for us. Just us and our islands of plastic out in the ocean.
Of all the single-use plastic products that are contributing to the problem, there’s one monster that rises above them all.
Right in front of Your Face. Literally.
If you’re sitting in front of a cup, there may be peaking out of that cup one of the most destructive contributors to plastic pollution on earth. That’s right, the straw. As of 2017, 390 million plastic straws were being used by Americans on any single day. That’s 142,350,000,000 straws a year coming from just the USA. Around the world, who knows how many there are?
Since most curbside recycling programs don’t accept the type 5 plastic that straws are generally made out of, they end up in landfills or as litter on the sidewalk. From there, they often work their way to rivers and eventually to the ocean. That straw in your iced latte could be destined for a lodging in a sea turtle’s nose some day.
What Can We Do?We’re fortunate to live in a time when information is more accessible than ever. Because of that, many of us are aware of the dangers of plastic pollution, and we’re rising to the challenge with safe, environmentally friendly alternatives both as individuals and through company innovations.
Starbucks, for instance, now offers strawless lids for many of its drinks. Other establishments have taken to using paper or bamboo straws. You can even get stainless steel straws that will last throughout your many sipping adventures and which we find to be rather fashionable. And it’s not just straws, either. Companies like Zume are focusing their efforts on providing eco-friendly alternatives to all sorts of single-use products, from food containers to facemasks.
Will it be enough? Nobody knows at this point. But it’s certainly a cause that we need to align on as both a society and a species. This is the only earth we’ve got, and it could very well come down to humankind vs. plastic garbage. To find out how Zume can help your company rise to the challenge with environmentally-safe products, contact us here.