Plastic pollution is everywhere, from our seas to our skies. Plastic doesn’t discriminate when it comes to polluting the planet, and tragically it can now be found in some of the remotest corners of the earth. In this blog, we are exploring the phenomenon of plastic pollution in unusual places, helping you understand how it gets there and what you can do to help.
Plastic – where isn’t it?
These are some of the most unusual types of plastic pollution we now come across around the globe:
- Plastic that resembles stones. This strange phenomenon has only just come to light as pieces of plastic that look just like stones have been found on a beach in Cornwall. They are known as pyroplastics, and they’re formed when plastics are heated up and melted. The most likely explanation is that pyroplastics are washing up on our beaches from distant locations, where plastics are routinely disposed of through burning. As they look so similar to stones, it’s not yet known how many there could be.
- Plastic rain. Earlier this year, scientists found that tiny microplastic particles were raining down in the Pyrenees mountains. Now, scientists have also found microplastic particles in rainwater samples collected in the Rocky Mountains. The researcher who discovered them was looking at the samples expecting to find soil and minerals – certainly not plastic. It shows how little we really know about the full extent of the plastic problem we’re currently facing.
- Chewing gum. Do you know what’s in your chewing gum? Many people don’t, and are surprised to discover that it contains synthetic rubber – the very same type that’s used to make car tyres! Chewing gum is so difficult to break down and it’s important it’s disposed of properly. If you want to be more environmentally conscious, you can also look for new, natural brands of gum. It should be free of synthetic polymers, and biodegradable.
- Microplastics in water. Tiny particles of plastic can be found throughout the ocean, and evidence shows they are even found in deep sea. Scientists have discovered high concentrations of microplastics in the deep sea of Monterey – they turned up in every specimen they examined. Microplastics are also present in drinking water – bottled or not, there’s no avoiding them. It’s thought that 93% of bottled water and 92% of tap water is contaminated with microplastics! There is a simple solution. Use a filter jug or water bottle, and fill this up with water from the tap. It’s the best way to drink pure, uncontaminated water.
- Plastic in Arctic snow. Scientists have found high concentrations of plastic present in Arctic snow, showing that it is travelling huge distances around the planet. Whilst they were expecting to find some microplastics present in their snow samples, the scientists were surprised to find such high volumes.
- Plastics in seafood. It’s easy to see how microplastics are getting into our food chain when there are so many present in our oceans. People who eat lots of seafood could be consuming up to 11,000 microplastic pieces a year! A study in 2018 also found all mussels sampled from UK coasts and supermarkets contained microplastics and other debris, such as cotton and rayon.
Plastic is everywhere, and it’s thought we could be eating the equivalent of a credit card every single week! It’s not yet known for sure how damaging this could be to the human body and research is still underway. It’s possible that this amount of plastic could affect major internal organs including the liver, kidneys, intestines and brain. It might also be involved in the development of certain cancers.
How does plastic pollution end up in these places?
Sadly, much of the plastic waste that we create ends up in water systems, and this is often how it travels so far, polluting every corner of our earth. If plastic isn’t put into suitable recycling bins, it will often be blown into rivers and oceans – this can also happen during transportation, or when rubbish is piled up at landfill sites. Once in water, plastic can be transported many miles, as evidenced by the plastic that is being found in the Arctic.
When people dispose of plastic irresponsibly, it’s easy to feel a sense of disconnect with where that plastic ends up. Leaving a plastic bottle on the pavement might not seem like such a big deal, but when you think of that plastic washing up on a distant shore, or worse still, proving hazardous to marine life, then it’s much harder to distance ourselves from the waste we create.
Changing behaviour has a cyclical effect: as we inspire changes in the behaviour of others, they become more informed about and involved in environmental protection. The more people this happens to, the more change we can instigate.
This is exactly the kind of behaviour we are encouraging with our BinForGreenSeas. With bold messaging reminding people about the harm they could be doing to marine life, we make sure littering is on people’s minds. Sited on seafronts throughout the UK, our bin is making all of us accountable and changing behaviour as we speak.
Help us produce more bins. Help us change behaviour. Help us reduce plastic pollution.