The impact of plastic pollution

Despite the bad reputation plastic has, lowering the production is still proving to be difficult. Plastic is available everywhere and not to mention dirt-cheap. If we continue like this, plastic pollution will have a big impact on the world as we know it.

beach waste netherlands

When plastic was first advertised it was called revolutionary. Strong, lightweight, bendy material you can produce in any form or shape? That was unheard of, so people welcomed it with open arms. Using plastic became the new norm. It wasn’t until the excess became visible, people started seeing the negative side effects of this material that was made to last.  

Plastic Pollution Present-Day

Cue the throwaway culture we live in nowadays. We’re always on the go and prefer convenience over anything else. The average ‘working life’ of a plastic bag is less than 15 minutes. But it’ll most likely wander the earth for decades after.

A dirty word
With all this waste piling up, and no sufficient capacity to get rid of it, we’re in a serious crisis. And we know it, because plastic has become a dirty word. Still taking all your groceries in a new plastic bag? Boo! Plastic cup to take your coffee? Yikes.

Plastic Pollution in the Netherlands
The Dutch government is conducting research since 2012 in beach waste. That’s how we know 75% of all beach waste in the Netherlands is plastic material. Most waste comes from the fishing industry, something the North Sea is used for intensively. None the less, consumer waste is also a big problem. On its seabed they found eleven kilos of waste per square kilometer.

Pollution versus Pandemic
While plastic is still seen as a necessity, production hasn’t stopped growing exponentially. When it comes to producing high quantities at low cost, plastic remains the go-to material. Case in point are the facemasks and disposable gloves that are used during this global covid-19 pandemic. And with the desperate need for these products, the plastic pollution crisis has taken a back seat.

"It is everywhere – in our streets and rivers, and as shown by ocean divers, has already found its way to our seas, where disposable masks and gloves are found floating like jellyfish and lying scattered across seabeds," Elles Tukker, from the environment organization Plastic Soup Foundation told CGTN Europe.

Another consequence the virus brought is the crash of the oil price. It is now so low that it’s even cheaper than it already was to produce plastic. Moreover, new plastic is cheaper to purchase than recycled plastic. On top of the dropping oil price, recycling companies’ costs have increased. This means the price difference is even bigger, resulting in the demand for recycled plastic crashing completely.

surgical mask waste found in the ocean

Image curtesy of Operation Mer Propre.

Expectations in the future

Of course, there is no way of knowing exactly what will happen in the future. But looking at the past years we can notice that plastic production has spiked. If we assume things remain the same, our future is looking pretty grim. 

Plastic pollution in 2050
It’s expected that in 30 years from now there will be more plastic swimming in our oceans than fish. Let that sink in for a while.

Another expectation is that 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 will be caused by the production of plastic. To compare this to today; 15% of all greenhouse gas emission is caused by transportation worldwide.

The impact it will have

There is a big visible impact you undoubtedly have heard of or have seen with your own eyes. Beaches flooded with plastic debris or animals seriously injured or even killed by the consequences of plastic pollution.  

Invisible impact
Here’s the thing; plastic comes in many shapes and forms. There is a big invisible impact being made that is often -literally- overlooked. With natural elements breaking up the plastic into miniscule pieces, a lot of the plastic wandering the earth isn’t even visible to us.

 Another form of this ‘invisible’ plastic is deliberately added to various products. It easily ends up in our oceans without you even knowing it. Think about sunscreen that wears off when taking a dip. Did you know the majority of sunscreen contains microplastic?

This so-called microplastic is incorporated in our whole eco-system. It is present in the food chain, as it’s ingested by even the tiniest organisms. This has an impact on all living creatures, but also on the air we breathe, the land we use to harvest and the water we drink.

There’s extensive research conducted when it comes to microplastic. There are enough indications its impact has negative consequences on our food chain. In the Netherlands, researching microplastics and its effects is a high priority for the national government. According to them, reducing litter is of highest importance to limit the consequences microplastics may have.

Economic impact
The economic impact is worth mentioning as well. Cleaning up areas affected by plastic pollution doesn’t come cheap. With earth’s population growing, land becomes scarce. This results in its value going up. Finding a piece of land to dispose garbage is becoming significantly harder.

Economies relying on tourism will feel an impact if plastic keeps washing ashore. It’s usually the less developed countries that benefit from tourism, but have insufficient funds and means to dispose plastic waste washing up on their beaches. More plastic on a beach means less tourists visiting that particular beach. It’s a vicious cycle in no time.

What can we do?

There are multiple initiatives making a change for the better. There’s The Ocean Cleanup, an organization that developed passive cleanup methods aiming to decrease the plastic floating in our oceans. Additionally, in 2011 students found a certain type of mushroom in the amazon that eats plastic. Then Livin Studio developed a way to grow them on plastic waste and eat them afterwards. These initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg.

Prevention is better than a cure
At Blue Marché we believe prevention is better than to cure. If we all focus solely on cleaning up plastic waste, plastic will still be produced and will end up as waste. In order to decrease the impact of plastic pollution, we need to look at the source. We believe there is still time to make a change!

Make a stance against plastic production
Our mission is to inspire you making environmentally conscious decisions.We encourage our surroundings to raise awareness with us. Do your part where you can ,by buying eco-friendly products, signing petitions, recycle and so on. 

Our products are helpful for anyone looking to make small changes towards a plastic-free life. Collectively they will lead towards a big change; a plastic-free future.

We still believe a plastic free future isn’t possible without clean ups, which is why we donate 5% of all profits towards ocean clean-ups. Through our products we want to raise awareness for plastic pollution, and inspire you to help eliminate single used plastic. Read our story and get to know us here


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