After the World Wars, when scarcity had been a scourge on society and austerity had ensured year on year, there was a polymer explosion and plastic production proliferated. Crumbed infrastructures were being rebuilt, and social mobility was being clawed back with voracious manufacturing of this miracle substance that was quick, easy, cheap and convenient because it is so magnificently malleable.
Several decades later, and it is no longer such a pretty picture...
Every year enough plastic is trashed to wrap four times round the earth.
Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (except the small amount that has been incinerated).
We produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, of which 8 million tons is dumped into our oceans - the equivalent of one garbage truck a minute.
For every square mile of ocean, there are around 46,000 piece of plastic present.
Plastic production accounts for about 6% of global oil consumption, which is equivalent to the oil consumption of the global aviation sector.
This means that the penchant for plastic bottled water is causing deforestation and displacement of indigenous tribes in the amazon predominantly, as coal and oil commodity companies clear space for fossil fuel extraction.
If the use of plastics continues to grow it will account for 20% of total oil, and 15% of the global annual carbon budget by 2050.
Exposure to plastic chemicals is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, hormone disruption and fertility issues. BPA, or bisphenol A, is used in bottles and disrupts hormones creating dangerous levels of oestrogen.
As it makes its way around, plastic leeches and absorbs chemicals from other plastics before it enters landfill or oceans, and as it degrades, these plastic pieces also release toxic chemicals.
Mercury emitted into the atmosphere rains into rivers and sea, being gobbled by tiny bacteria which turn it into methylmercury. This substance bonds incredibly well with polymer plastics which small animals and organisms LOVE to eat the most, which bigger animals love to eat too - and now chemicals leached by plastics are found in over 90% of seabirds, and in the blood of nearly all people all over the planet .
China, a country of 1.3 billion, consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily.
500 billion bags worldwide are simply thrown to the land and seas, tantamount to over 100 million per minute.
Only 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled.
More than 100 million plastic bottles are used worldwide every day!
That's 1,600 per second, that end up in landfills or the ocean..
On average, a bottle is used for 12 seconds, yet it takes 700 - 1,000 years to start decomposing.
Tens of millions of barrels of oil are used to make these bottles each year. Not to mention the energy for the distance of transportation. Deforestation for throw away culture
what can we do?
The problem with plastics is their sheer convenience. And the plastic problem is a bit like the tobacco problem - it all seemed such a great idea at the time! They didn't realise it was so not great..Plastic will clog our environment like tobacco clogged our lungs.
We need to really simple appreciate and act on this terrible problem. The waters remain unpoliced, and industry rages on. So it is up to us to halt the demand.
Just don't accept plastic bags. The plastic bag ban in big supermarkets cut bag use by 85%. Tell people why . Relay these facts, influence, and incite change. REUSE shopping bags, water bottles, coffee mugs and cutlery.
REFUSE vehemently single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. Carry reusable utensils if you need them.
REDUCE your use of everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons.
Coffee cups ludicrously cannot be recycled - bring your TO-GO MUG with you to the coffee shop, wack smoothies in them and drink water from them.
Go hard on DIGITAL! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
Seek out ALTERNATIVES to the plastic items that you rely on...
RECYCLE. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
VOLUNTEER at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.
SUPPORT plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills - message MPs and councillors.
SPREAD THE WORD. Ignore the haters. Talk to your family and friends incessantly about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the devestating impacts of plastic pollution on the planet. Especially the people of the developing countries where we dump our waste
The myths about a giant, island-size land mass of rubbish is true. Once the size of Texas, the North Western plastic swamp now stands at two times the size. And as the economy and global population continues to grow, this heaving mass does too - having quadrupled since the 1980's.