At Coda Plastics, we're proud to be an award-winning European plastic manufacturer - and we have been for over 35 years. However, we understand that some people have concerns about the plastic industry, and want to know if it is to blame for the plastic pollution we so often hear about on the news. That's why we've come up with this myth-busting guide to plastic pollution, so you can get the facts for yourself about this complex issue.
Myth: There is [X amount] of plastic in the ocean.
It's very hard to say how much plastic there actually is in the ocean. Research published by Science magazine estimated that between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic washed offshore in 2010. A study by the University of Georgia estimated that 275 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in the same year. These hugely different figures show how difficult it is to measure plastic waste. No-one can say for sure.
Myth: Reports about plastic pollution are always accurate.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding plastic pollution, information about it has not always been conveyed effectively by the media. A study in 2011 found the 'Pacific Garbage Patch' was in fact much smaller than media reports had suggested. Analysis by an Oregon State University scientist found that, contrary to claims that the 'Pacific Garbage Patch' is twice the size of Texas, its actual size is 'less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas'. After publishing her research, Angel White stated that a widespread lack of clarity in environmental reporting undermined the credibility of those working to prevent pollution.
Myth: You can see the plastic polluting the ocean from space.
Many people imagine plastic pollution as large islands of rubbish floating on the ocean, and famous photographs of floating plastic have fuelled this image. However, most of these images are not from an ocean 'Garbage Patch', as it is often labelled, but from Manila harbour, or other coastal regions. Metropolitan Manila, the most populous region in the Philippines, has a serious waste management problem. As a newly industrialised country without proper infrastructure in place, rubbish is often thrown directly into the sea. Most plastic polluting the ocean is not like this - it has broken down into tiny pieces called microplastics, which can't always be seen by the naked eye or even by satellite imagery.
Myth: We can't get rid of plastic pollution.
Plastic takes a long time to decompose, but it is not permanent. On average, a plastic bottle will take 450 years to completely degrade. Many organisations are working on producing biodegradable plastic, which breaks down much more quickly. If we could stop putting any plastic in the ocean now, the plastic that's already there would take a long time to degrade - but eventually there would be none left. That's why many environmental experts recommend that focusing on reducing plastic waste should be our priority, as it will reduce the impact we have on our environment in the longer term.
Despite this, there are people working to remove plastic waste from our oceans. Organisations like the Marine Conservation Society organise beach cleaning events that help protect marine wildlife from the dangers of litter - and you can get involved throughout the year. Meanwhile, radical startup The Ocean Cleanup plans to begin its first cleanup mission in 2020. Plastic-eating organisms are another exciting venture that may help us remove existing plastic waste in the future.
Myth: Plastic always has a negative impact on the environment.
It's easy to think that plastic is simply bad, but the truth is more complex. Research by think-tank Denkstatt and food packaging leaders found that packaging prevents food waste. We throw away less food if it's packaged as it lasts longer. This means that even if the packaging isn't recycled, packaged fresh goods have a smaller environmental footprint than unpackaged foods.
Plastic is a versatile and exciting material, but we need to use it responsibly. In the UK, 94% of local authorities now offer collection facilities for plastic bottles - but in 2013 we only recycled around 31.6% of plastic. If plastic isn't recycled, it can go to landfill and damage the environment. We all need to work together to recycle more and waste less.
Myth: Plastic production companies don't care about the environment.
At Coda Plastics, we're well aware of the damage that plastic pollution can cause. That's why we recycle as much as possible. We re-use over 90% of any waste that we produce. In addition, we can supply PET bottles made from recycled PET bottles. We know we can't change the damage that has already been caused by pollution, but by reducing the amount of plastic that gets thrown away, we take every precaution possible to prevent more damage from being done.
Plastic pollution is a serious problem, but it's one that we can tackle. At Coda Plastics, we're doing our bit to protect the environment. To find out what you can do, take a look at these useful links.