Plastic waste in our oceans continues to skyrocket despite our modern understanding of just how devastating the effects are on both marine wildlife and human health are. Plastic packaging is a prime contributor to this, in this article we will discuss the impacts of ocean plastic and introduce Bell Packagings' alternative packaging solutions.
The global use of plastic is due to its durable nature, however that is also the reason it is so harmful. Currently, there are around 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic weighing around 269,000 tonnes. (sas.org.uk). These microplastics and microfibers can enter the food chain through marine wildlife consuming them and wash up on our beaches, they are extremely difficult to clean up. Although organisations are working on ways to filter this plastic, it is difficult and expensive. 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contain plastic- plastic in seawater absorbs chemicals like PCBs and DDTs which have been linked to endocrine disruption and some cancers.
Plastic on the ocean's surface can also contribute to climate change. The reason is that with the concentration of plastic on the surface of the sea, bacteria living in the ocean can attach themselves to the microplastic particles. The more plastic, the more bacteria. As bacteria consume more oxygen, they in turn produce more carbon dioxide, which directly contributes to climate change because it disrupts the biogeochemical carbon cycle.
The problem of plastic on the ocean's surface can be visually dramatic. For example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California in the North Pacific Ocean, is estimated to have an area of 1.6 million square kilometres. Although ocean cleanup has already begun in this area, the scale and location pose a daunting challenge. However, cleaning the ocean's surface will not solve the plastic problem in the ocean. Indeed, surface plastic is just the beginning of the plastic problem.
Much of the plastic waste found in the ocean comes from land-based household and business waste sources. This waste usually enters the ocean through runoff from rivers and streams. Oftentimes, plastic waste from single-use plastics such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws and other food packaging that is not disposed of properly through recycling or landfill can end up in water bodies.
Of all marine pollution, plastic accounts for about 80%, equivalent to 8 to 16 million tons of trash dumped into the ocean each year. In a word, it is estimated that there are between 50 and 75 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. This number is expected to grow without significant intervention from consumers, businesses and governments around the world to tackle the problem.
Without meaningful changes in the way we use and dispose of plastic, the long-term future of the environment and oceans will be bleak. Plastic production is predicted to double by 2040 and increase by 2.5 times by 2050.
We've seen the impacts on biodiversity, ocean habitats, and the impact of plastic in the food chain on people. Without meaningful intervention in our use and the way we tackle the plastic problem, the situation will only get worse. Without fundamental change, plastic waste in the ocean could triple in quantity.
Currently, it is estimated that only 20% of the plastic used is recycled, making 80% of the plastic a contaminant. In 2017, the United Nations Environment Program launched the Clean Seas campaign to reduce problematic and avoidable plastics. Sixty-three countries have pledged to support this improvement in plastic management, and although much has been achieved, much remains to be done.
Bell Packaging is aware of the environmental damage and are striving to do something about it. We have developed a new type of product packaging called “Retran” - A polymer-based material containing a minimum of 70% recycled content. More information on our Reused Ocean Plastic can be found here.
Our ambition is not only to help minimise the plastic waste being dumped into our oceans but to help clean the waste already there and to find innovative ways to approach such a daunting task. Potentially one of the most exciting developments in the plastic packaging industry is our ability to access and reprocess post-consumer waste that has washed up on beaches, deposited in river banks and the perimeters of our oceans. Ocean plastic waste is cleaned and broken down into polymer which in turn can be processed into the aforementioned Retran boxes and tubes.
Remember it doesn't matter if you use plastic, it just matters that you use the right plastic.
Bell Packaging is proud to be a leader in the sustainable packaging industry, we are always looking for new ways to improve our carbon footprint. If you’re a business that is interested in decreasing its carbon footprint through its packaging then get in contact with Bell Packaging today.