The plastic soup in our oceans

Every minute, the equivalent of one full truck of plastic is dumped in the ocean. That equals 1440 trucks per day and 8 billion kilos every year.

Bigger pieces of plastic, like bottles or plastic bags, are fragmented in de water into smaller pieces called micro plastics. This process of fragmentation is caused by sunlight, disintegration and the waves of the ocean. Animals, like fish, plankton, but also birds see these small micro plastic pieces as food. This is how plastic gets its way into our food chain. We are literally eating the plastic we threw away, but also damaging our own environment.

All this plastic that was dumped into the oceans, also to an increasing extent pollutes the beaches. Even the most beautiful beaches in the world are covered by garbage, dirt and mainly plastic that is brought there by the sea, the waves and the tide.

What is the plastic soup?

In 1997, in the middle of the ocean, captain Charles Moore discovered a large area covered with plastic pieces, large and small. Later he went back to do more research and called this the ‘plastic soup’.

Do you know what the problem is with plastic? It doesn’t consume. It may be fragmentized into multiple pieces, but it will never be digested by an animal or fish or evaporate. A lot of the plastic that ends up in the environment, like bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic bags, but also small plastic pieces; many of them end up in the ocean. Either by garbage being dumped, waste being thrown on the streets or in rivers or waste being taken by the wind.

In the oceans, the water flows. This is caused by enormous streams, tides (caused by the position of the moon related to the sun) and wind power. Sooner or later, this plastic gets caught up in one of these water streams. The plastic pieces are transported by these streams towards some central parts of the oceans. That’s where these plastic parts remain. They are basically submissive to the power of the oceans. This is how plastic soups can emerge.

Toxic food

Because of the degradation and fragmentation of the plastic that flows in the oceans, very small minuscule parts of plastic are being formed out of larger parts. These plastics are seen as food by fish and plankton. Plankton, the poor little creature, has its place somewhere at the bottom of the global food chain. Just as eating plastic is unhealthy for humans, it is also quite toxic for fish and plankton. Many societies, like ours, eat fist quite regularly. Plankton eats micro plastics, fish its plankton and plastic, humans eat fish. This is how these toxics emerge into our food chain.

Not to mention all the industrial waste that is being dumped in lakes and rivers and ends up in our oceans. We are basically making ourselves and Mother Nature sick.

Large areas of plastic

This is only the top of the iceberg. The plastic waste that is polluting our climate, environment and personal health is still somewhat unknown. Especially the effects of plastic waste below sea level is still quite unclear.

However, micro plastic pieces have been found up to 5000 meters under sea level. Plastic bottles have been found up until 3500 meters below sea level. And with every tide new plastic waste is being washed up ashore.

Where did this plastic come from? You can say that most plastic is being thrown on the streets, in the rivers and left in nature. People individually dump waste, but also industries dump their waste into nature. Every river and every wind eventually ends up in the ocean. The ocean takes the floating plastic towards areas far away from civilizations.

Gyres

These streams are called gyres. A gyre is a natural phenomenon. It’s a rotating current system that is comprised to the earth’s rotation coupled with currents and prevailing winds. It’s basically a giant whirlpool. It takes a long time before a plastic piece fulfils the gyre, up to about 10 years toward the accumulation zone.

It’s an international issue. The plastic comes from every part of the world and is being transported by the currents all over the world.

Solution?

Its very difficult to get the plastic out of the ocean, due to the enormous size of the currents, the size of the plastic soups and the size of the oceans. It is more effective to get as close to the source as possible. Therefore we should all clean up our beaches, clean our streets, clean our parks and clean our gardens.

The Ocean Cleanup

The Ocean Cleanup is an initiative by a Dutch youngster called Boyan Slat. He invented a new technology to clean up the ocean from its plastic, mainly focused on cleaning up the plastic soups. This technology uses the currents of the ocean. It is a system that catches and concentrates the plastic. The plastic will be pushed by the current into the cleaning system. This system has a U-shape and partly floats on the water. The waste is being collected and shipped to the shore.

It’s a revolutionary idea. Or perhaps it is quite simple. Perhaps what is revolutionary is that it is invented and initiated by a very young Dutch guy. He felt he had to come up with an idea to clean up the huge amount of plastic in the oceans. Somehow he managed to get attention from the public for his solution. He got funding and even the full support from the Dutch government to produce his ideas.

The plastic soup is a huge global climate issue. It is one of the main issues that effect every person in the world. It is caused by our own neglect and ignorance. We all threw away plastic waste into nature. Are we up for cleaning the oceans?

If not, it will have an effect on us sooner or later. It is probably already effecting our health, as the degraded plastic parts are already in our food chain, in the fish we eat. Perhaps it is already causing or contributing to the emerging of cancer as a severe humans disease.

The problem is not resolving itself. Nature cannot degrade plastic. On the contrary, the plastic soup is only getting larger and time will only make the problem worse, because of small parts of plastic being spread to the depth of the oceans.

We need to take action. As was mentioned: it starts at the point where plastic is being dumped into nature. Clean up your own environment. Does anyone have any ideas? Please share below!

Globalization as the tool to make the world more sustainable

It might be perfectly clear that globalization to a great extent has a cause the climate change that we currently experience. Let’s face it. Because of globalization the distance between countries and people has, so to speak, decreased. Millions of people regularly take a flight, either for holidays, business or to visit family and friends. Flying, however, is extremely polluting and in fact very bad for the environment.

Also, because of globalization many products we use and eat are in fact produced at another place in the world. As the production costs in other places are lower, they are produced there and then transported to the country where the products are sold. This entire chain of transportation is also very bad for the environment. Just remember that not so long ago, we mainly consumed products that were made locally.

In Europe, for example, we never ate avocados until recently. Because of its nutrition, the avocados have gained a lot of popularity in Europa and the United States, resulting in the skyrocketing of sales and, consequently, production. As a result, local environmental decay is emerging in the production countries in Latin America. The transportation of avocados is very costly and a delicate matter. It is damaging the environment. In the transportation process, many avocado’s end up not having the right quality to be sold. They have rotten in the ships or airplanes that transported them to Europa. These fruits are thrown away. Globalization, in this way, causes a chain of pollution and negative environmental effects.

This may be clear to most of you.

As globalization increases, the living standards in second and third world countries are increasing. These people desire the living standards as they are in first world countries. They also want cheap stuff. They want products from all over the world. They want to own a car, a smartphone, a laptop, travel the world, etc. And for your information: the second world countries contain the larger part of the world population. Climate change could increase substantially in de decades to come.

However, could globalization also help in making the world more sustainable?

Counter globalization steps are probably impossible. There is no way that human rationality is going to change direction. We all want more. We all want a comfortable life. We all want to travel and see the world. Globalization, as in the integration of the world, will only increase.

Can globalization, then, be used to make growth more sustainable?

Communication technologies

Many people all over the world have a smartphone. Many people all over the world have access to internet. They are all connected. They have Facebook, Whatsapp or other sorts of social media accounts. A great product of globalization is that the imaginary distance between people on our planet has is in fact decreased the last couple of years and is now quite small.

Very easily I can communicate with people all over the world. The Ask Why Why Not? movement is only a very good example of the growing importance of communication technology.

Can this effect of globalization be used to counter the negative effect of globalization on sustainability?

It is an interesting point brought up by Kyllian Pather in his video on Ask Why Why Not? on Youtube, which can be seen here.

The digital distance between world citizens is so small nowadays. With only a little effort a message can be spread to people all over the world. This is a result of globalization. Internet is gaining more users and gaining importance on a global scale. Internet, in fact, is being seen more and more as a first need in order to survive. I don’t totally agree with that, but internet is a way for a poor person to escape poverty by connecting to the world from his or her home, wherever in the world this home might be located.

If nothing is done, the citizens of upcoming economies as India and China (that is at least 1/3 of the world population) will strive to have the same lifestyle as European or Northern American people. Before they will succeed in that, the world will probably have disappeared. Our climate cannot handle this kind of behaviour.

Why not use internet and social media to spread more sustainable and environmental ways of living under the citizens of India en China, and especially under young citizens? Show a different lifestyle, in which not discovering new countries and cultures, but to discover your own country and culture is the cool thing to do? Or a way of living that is not played in the digital realm, but we go back to interact face-to-face? Or a city in which polluting vehicles are changed for electric vehicles, because it improves the air quality in big cities in Asia and around the world?

It’s all about showing the other side of the coin. We should not focus on the polluting societies and the ways of living in Europa and North America, because they will worsen our living environment. We should invent a new way of living and use technology to spread this way of living.

Minorities can be given a voice through internet and technology. Globalization allows us to be connected to this global way of thinking. This is the way forward (Gordon Brown)

It is up to the young generations

We should do it differently. We are global citizens. The world is directed towards destroying its key features: our climate. We, as young generations, as the citizens of the future, should do it differently. We should redirect our path. We should make sure our future is secure and safe. We should make sure that we are able to survive and reach an old age. If we don’t put an effort into achieving a more sustainable world, who will?

In fact, the younger generations, millennials, are the most sustainability conscious generation yet. Globalization and the digital world of internet teaches us what the consequences are of our actions. We know. Therefore we should act!

The beautiful thing about the Ask Why Why Not-movement is that younger people all over the world are challenged to ask critical questions to themselves. Why do you do certain things the way you do? What are the consequences of your actions or desires? Do you really support the effects of your style of living? Be critical and be self-reflecting. But also: spread the word to people around you or young people all around the world. Technology is our thing, so let’s use it!

The effect of the Blue Planet documentary: A plastic free Britain?

The island of England, Wales and Scotland used to be a big user of plastic. However, after the popular documentary Blue Planet, a change is happening. The British are caught in the fight against plastic. ‘Blue Planet’ has made the British to notice their role in the plastic soup.

Plastic free shopping

A tangible result of this new movement in England, is a garbage-free supermarket in the most environmental-friendly city in England: Totnes. I hear you think: garbage-free supermarket? Yes. It’s a new thing. All products in supermarkets are usually packed in plastic. Fruits or vegetables need to be put in a plastic bag to be weighted before checkout. All the groceries are packed in plastic bags for you to bring them to your house. It’s plastic, plastic, plastic.

The garbage-free supermarket is the other side of the spectrum. Peanuts are grinded in front of your eyes into peanut butter. Customers bring their own pots, bottles and containers. It is not only environmental friendly to skip the unnecessary plastic packages, but also a fun way to shop. One example is the garbage-free supermarket in Vancouver.

Everything can be bought and be put in your own packages. Detergents, bread spread, almond milk, ginger chocolate, etc. Paper bags are available for customers that don’t happen to have brought their own. At the checkout a customer can get a free hug from the cashier.

After the documentary Blue Planet, the number of British people that put more effort in a plastic free lifestyle, has increased. Blue Planet has caused a flow of realisation over the island. In this film, the known environmentalist David Attenborough showed the world how giant tortoise, albatrosses and whales are the victims of a stunning 8 million tons of plastic that end up in the oceans every year.

8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year!

Sewer fat

One doesn’t have to watch Blue Planet to be confronted with the plastic waste that we as humans produce and leave as waste. The roadsides, streets and beaches are covered in a vast layer of plastic waste. Bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, etc. Everything is dumped and ends up in our precious nature. At the same time, the London sewage is regularly clogged by thousands of wet towels that urbanites flush through the toilet. These, and other wastes that are flushed through the London toilets, end up being swallowed in a huge sewer fat.

This big lump of fat is being called ‘fatberg’ or ‘sewage monster’. It has the size of the Tower Bridge and the weight of 11 London busses.

As this fat monster is hiding in the London sewage system, the Museum of London has made it a bit more tangible by displaying a small part in their museum as a limp of the below-ground sewage monster.

It’s a waste

Blue Planet made the British realise what the effect of their plastic behaviour is. Groups of people started to clean the beaches. A new phenomenon from Scandinavia, called ‘plogging’ set foot on British ground, in which joggers pig up garbage from the streets. This is a way to do some extra exercise and clean up your own living environment.

Sweden is way ahead of many countries in environmental-friendly solutions in daily life. In Sweden, only 1 per cent of waste ends up on a landfill, against 23 per cent on the British island. The British prefer to transport their waste to China, but China is increasingly not willing to accept British waste anymore.

Taking action

The government was pushed towards making changes. They were going to investigate whether returnable plastic bottles could be reintroduced. The minister of environmental issues Michael Gove was seen with a sustainable coffee mug in his hand. And some hotels, restaurants and even Buckingham Palace banned plastic straws. Music festivals like Glastonbury, which attracts thousands of idealistic young people every year and leave a ton of waste, are being forced to take action on the waste they produce.

Penzance in Cornwall has called itself the first plastic free city of England. The Anglican Church has called its congregation to better take care of Gods creation, our precious earth. The May government wants the island of Britain to be freed of the plague of plastic by 2042.

The rest of the world might be laughing of the lack of intensiveness of these measurements, but for the British they were a small step towards change.

Small-scale change

When Richard Eckesbey and his wife Nicola realised how much plastic waste they threw out every week, they decided to change their life completely. They quite their jobs and decided to open a garbage free store. They were inspired by the Berlin ‘Unperfekthaus’. They lived in Manchester, which was not the right place for these ideas, as they thought. Instead they decided to open their new garbage free supermarket in the most environmental city in England: Totnes.

Customers are supposed to bring their own containers, pots, bags and bottles. They can fill these with their groceries. Oatmeal, detergent, salt, oil; everything is available in bulk. Even toothbrushes are made of sustainable wood. Tampons are reusable.

We cannot close our eyes anymore for the garbage we cause.

It is a remarkable project. They have no commercial goal and prices are being kept as low as possible. There are no plans to grow the business. Moreover, the owners hope to be an inspiration for others to start a similar project and decrease the (plastic) waste by simple measurements.

Plastic free shopping

A crucial role is being kept for the big supermarket chains. Many people simply don’t have the money nor the time to go shopping in a ‘zero waste supermarket’. A ban of plastic bags, plastic packages and reintroducing the reusable plastic bottle or glass milk bottle are simple solutions to decrease the use of (useless) plastic.

Currently it is almost impossible to shop plastic free. Normal products are packaged in a shocking 2 or 3 layers of plastic and people are obligated to put the fruits and vegetables in plastic bags to be weighted.

It is, furthermore, a system that we live in that makes us lazy. Fifty or sixty years ago, way less plastic was used on a daily basis. Milk was distributed in glass reusable bottles and plastic bags or packages were not used as widespread as nowadays. We should go back to these times. It’s possible and quite simple. It is a change in the mind set and habits of people, of consumers. Will they be willing?

Do you have suggestions on simple measurements to reduce the use of plastic in our daily life? Please share your ideas and be an inspiration.

Always ask Why!

Do you ever ask yourself ‘Why’?

Why did I buy clothes, although I have enough clothes?

Why do I use a car, while public transport is way more environmental friendly?

Why do I buy products in useless plastic packages?

Why do I use the free plastic bags at the supermarket for my groceries, although I can easily bring a shopping bag from home to bring the grocery to my house?

Why exactly do I go on vacation to a far-away destination, although there are so many wonderful destinations to explore closer to my city?

Why exactly do I buy these tropical produce, while I know the transportation process pollutes the environment greatly? I do know that locally produced produce is delicious, so why eat these produce that is being flown in from abroad?

Is a rose from Ecuador really necessary on Valentine’s Day or is a nice bouquet from my own country just as good?

Do you ask yourself why?

You should ask yourself why. You should always stay critical. By asking yourself critical questions about ‘normal’ things, you will learn to not follow usual behaviour, but instead follow your own path.

You should always question the normative. Human beings are like sheep. We like to follow the crowd. It makes us calm and relax. We don’t have to think of every step when we just follow others.

The direction that humanity is currently going for (or is running towards, to better reflect on the pace in which we destroy our environment), is the one of climate change. Change can be good, but the current changing of the climate on a global level will cause huge effects; effects that are irreversible.

The effects of global climate change are, on a local level, for example:

  1. Continuing desertification, not only around the Sahara desert in Africa, but also in, for example Northern China and Mongolia.
  2. Rising sea level, directly threatening the disappearance of many islands in the Pacific and Caribbean Sea. But also large parts of the United States, for example Miami, or European countries as The Netherlands are under threat of a rising sea level.
  3. A small change in temperature has severe effects on the liveability of certain parts of the world.
  4. Famines, due to failures of harvests in many parts of the world.
  5. Continue draught in many parts of the world, resulting in the failure of harvests and shortages in drinking water.
  6. Etcetera, etcetera.

The effects are numerous. Climate change has an effect on the living conditions of all or us. We are citizens of the world! We carry responsibility.

I am sure there are examples of effects of climate change on a local level. If you know one, please feel free to share these with the world.

What is your contribution to climate change?

Climate change is something that plays on a global scale. It is a devastating effect of our collective behaviour, mainly caused by our intense consumption pattern.

Therefor we should have a critical perspective on our personal, individual behaviour that might be stimulated by a collective mind-set that is thought of as ‘normal’. Is it actually ‘normal’?

Is it normal to fly to the other side of the world? Is it normal to buy products that are produced on another continent? Is it necessary to eat products that are grown on a completely different continent? Is it acceptable that we import agricultural products from an African country, while those countries don’t have enough food themselves and a shortage of drinking water?

Do we normalize our behaviour while we should be questioning it?

What is our personal contribution to climate change? Should we perhaps try to change our own behaviour before questioning others?

To what extent are older generations causing the climate change that appears in the world of our generation and future generations? Is this acceptable?

We are a new generation!

We are a new generation. We should run the world the way that is good for the future of our generation. We should take matters into our own hand. If we don’t pursue this, our living environment will be destroyed by the generations before us.

It is evident. We can see it with our own eyes. We can experience is, feel it, hear it. The world is changing rapidly, but changes and policies are implemented very slowly. The biggest polluters are continuing their bad behaviour, supported by governments and presidents.

The countries that are the biggest polluters are simply denying the effects of climate change, although it happens under their own eyes. Are they blind? Are they stupid?

Perhaps they are. Therefor our generation should be critical. If change is needed, we cannot expect it from the generations before us. We should bring change. The Paris Agreement is prove of the fact that older generations have screwed up and are continuing to screw up our living environment. Yes, the Paris Agreement has been signed by pretty much all countries in the world, but change goes too slow and matters are too soft. Even more striking is the fact that the United States, which is the biggest polluter in the world, is pulling out of the Paris Agreement for the simple reason that it limits their economic profits. Instead of supporting the Paris Agreement and putting an effort into changing our behaviour, the United States decided to deny that climate change actually exists, while parts of the United States are flooded regularly or are under threat of climate change.

Have they gone completely insane? That is for you to decide, but please share you opinion on the matter. We are all citizens of the world, but clearly have different points of views.

Where do you live and what is your opinion on climate change efforts and the Paris Agreement?

Ask why!

I would like to stimulate you to stay critical. Keep on asking why. Continue asking yourself why you do certain things.

If we loose our critical perspective, human being will simply follow each other like a herd of sheep and fall into devastation.

Which questions do you ask yourself? Why do you ask yourself these questions? What is your answer or solution to these questions?