The Plastic Problem




* Plastic use is exponentially accelerating worldwide. 

* New recycling capacity is obliterated by the sheer mass of legacy plastic; much of it in our oceans. 

* Heavier, thicker, stronger packaging is harder to break down; packages impossible to open with bare hands.

* Europeans alarmed at plastic waste for decades; tight environmental regulations; strategy for a circular economy. 

* Concern here began only when landfills started hitting capacity and new capacity is needed.  


* The chasing arrow symbols on plastic containers “give permission” to not "feel guilty" about single use.

* Not a guarantee of recycle- ability; in reality, most plastics are not recyclable.

*  There has been a move to replace the chasing arrows with a solid bar triangle around the code #, indicating item is not recyclable, but implementation has been slow.


* The SPI codes #1- 7 designate the class of petrochemical feedstock bases (aka, resins, polymers) used in manufacture.

* Manufacturing process adds organic reagents to the feedstocks.

* Highly toxic chemicals, some known carcinogens. 

* Reagents customized to specific commercial plastic products. 

* Plastics “outgas” volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

* Trace chemicals from plastic containers leach into liquids or food. 


* Plastic takes ∼450 years to degrade on land. 

* In seawater, it slowly decomposes into micro- and nano-particles, which attract and bind toxins.  

* Nano-particles are in the ocean food chain, including marine mammals and in the brains of fish; also in sand and sea salt. 

* Micro-particles accumulate on the deepest sea floors, and are ingested.

* Massive seabird deaths from bottle cap ingestion; sea turtle deaths from swallowing plastic films. [1] 

** Earth's beautiful oceans have become a plastic soup, with estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic-- more than the fish in the sea.


* Plastic  recycling is not a closed loop.

* Recycled plastics are  shredded, melted into pellets, and “down-cycled” to new products., e.g., carpet. 

* Costs to municipalities for Recycle Collection are prohibitive and resource intensive.

* Manufacturing costs for recycled plastic  products can exceed those for virgin petrochemical use.

* Plastic for recycle-- placed in 1250 lb. bales for sale. 

* China, our largest buyer, just banned the import of plastic waste; pressures the recycling industry business model. 

* The vast majority of plastics still get landfilled. 


1)  "Plastic Island" video, CNN is to be commended:

2) Balloons and wildlife: 

3)  CVWMA site:
4)  EU commitment on plastic:

Beach, Dominican Republic.

Beach, Dominican Republic.