Does the quantity of Plastic Waste in our Oceans mean we are too late?


Blue Planet II on BBC TV showed a film of a sea horse with its tail wrapped around a cotton bud as it floated in the ocean. There could be more cotton buds in the sea than sea horses. Are we too late?

Biodegradable Polymers
Pollution Control
Plastic Recycling
David Cottrell
31 months ago

7 answers


I think something to think about is that the ecosystem is always in flux...its never to late, we just need to think about the problem.

For some awesome inspiration in ways things can be changed check out and start learning how to think about things from an ecosystem advantage.

Even if humans don't clean it up, something will evolve to utilize those carbon sources (we might be dead and it might take millions of years however)...

James Stephens
31 months ago
James: I agree that the planet will look after itself, long after we have ceased to exist. It's just a shame we have to make it work so hard. - David 31 months ago

It's not too late. We as humans made the mess, but we're equally talented enough to clean it up. We just need the resolve to do so.

Philip Tuet
31 months ago

It is not too late, maybe on the opposite, it may be the right time to make the plastic bottle removal from the oceans, profitable!

Luca Prezzi
31 months ago
Luca: How would you suggest we do this? - David 31 months ago

Anything done to improve planet Earth by increasing recycling is a good thing. Everyone needs to increase their knowledge about what items that can and can't be recycled. This education should start from the recycling company's themselves and be promoted by all levels of government. These programs will help the educated consumer make a better choice as to what product to buy and use that can and will be more Eco friendly. This should be accompanied with making recycling mandatory all across the USA and worldwide. This thought process of reduce, reuse, recycle with reduce the amount of garbage thrown away into our landfills and hopefully lead to less trash thrown into the oceans, lakes, rivers, streams the world over. The manufacturing industry should help by reducing waste, using more recycled products in their manufactured products. Some areas of the USA are making electrical energy through the use of burning trash to heat water. This changes to steam to turn turbines which generates electricity. This helps to reduce the amount of trash that is disposed of in landfills.

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
31 months ago


Publication of the garbage patch study coincided with a new report from Britain, Foresight Future of the Sea, that found plastic pollution in the ocean could triple by 2050 unless a “major response” is mounted to prevent plastic from reaching the ocean. The report declared plastic pollution to be one of the main environmental threats to the seas, along with sea-level rise and warming oceans.
The study included two aerial surveys in October of 2016 that took 7,000 images, and 652 ocean surface trawls conducted in July, August, and September of 2015 by 18 vessels.
The surface trawls also filled in the rest of the story.
Fifty plastic items collected had a readable production date: One from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s, and one from 2010. Researchers also found 386 objects with recognizable words or sentences in nine different languages.
The writing on a third of the objects was Japanese and another third was Chinese. The country of production was readable on 41 objects, showing they were manufactured in 12 different nations.
The study also concluded that plastic pollution is “increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.” Others are not as confident that the conclusion indicates a dramatic change in distribution of marine debris. Much of the world’s marine debris is believed to lie in the coastal regions, not in the middle of oceans.
Leonard says he was impressed with the scope of the study. “It’s strong science,” he says. “But at the same time, in this field, the harder we look, the more plastic we find.”

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
30 months ago

Biodegradable Plastics

When it comes to “sustainable packaging,” there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It’s important for brand owners, food producers and manufacturers to consider very carefully what packaging format they use and to make an informed decision based on the reality of our current waste management infrastructure and level of public understanding, says Richard McKinlay, head of circular economy at resource recovery specialist Axion. “They also need to understand what actually happens to their materials at end-of-life and what their environmental impact could be.”
Specifically, are biodegradable plastics better for the environment? It’s a complicated issue. “Plastic materials that at end-of-life can completely break down naturally and disappear harmlessly may sound like the ideal answer. People hear terms such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘bio-plastic’ and ‘compostable’ and assume that these plastics are more ‘environmentally-friendly,’” he says. “However, the reality is not so simple.”
The main issue, he says, is a lack of understanding of the nature of compostable or biodegradable plastics and what bio-plastics are, particularly in terms of their specific applications and the specialist treatment process needed to deal with these materials.
Bioplastics are made using renewable feedstocks rather than being derived directly from oil. Bioplastics can be used in the production of conventional polymers that can be recycled, such as recycled PET, or biodegradable polymers such as PLA.
While it may seem obvious that selecting a bioplastic is the most sustainable option – there is a clear benefit from not depleting a non-renewable source – many petrochemicals are a by-product of the oil refining process. “While we still live in an economy that is so heavily reliant on oil, it may be better to make use of its by-products rather than let them go to waste,” McKinlay says. “Bio-plastics are not free of environmental impact, and the carbon emissions associated with growing crops and converting these into the required chemicals needs to be taken into account.”
More thoughts from McKinlay:

  • “Compostable” and “biodegradable” are more or less synonymous terms and mean that the material will completely break down under certain conditions. The key to understanding any potential benefit is to know whether the polymer will easily break down, say in a home compost heap, or if it has to be treated in an industrial composting facility.
  • Many plastics that are described as biodegradable or compostable have to be collected and separated from the rest of the plastic waste and be sent to a purpose-designed industrial composting facility where they can be broken down successfully. These facilities exist for food waste, but ensuring that compostable packaging reaches them can be challenging.
  • Consumer confusion over what materials can and can’t be recycled is another big issue. Is this plastic water bottle made from a biodegradable plastic or “conventional” plastic, like PET? Does it go in the recycling bin or with the food waste collection?
  • Currently, throughout the UK there is a good collection and recycling infrastructure for PET bottles and this can be accessed by most people through curbside collections. But the infrastructure for food waste collections is not as well-established. For water bottles made from biodegradable plastic to be correctly recycled, a public communication campaign would be required so that people understand that biodegradable plastic should go in with food waste, and more food waste collection facilities in public places would be needed.
  • Some packaging such as that made from starch, will readily breakdown in a less controlled environment. However it is not possible to switch completely to these type of materials because they are not suitable for all applications. For example, kitchen/food recycling caddy liners are starch-based and will degrade in a home composting system. However this material would not be suitable for use in packaging as it would quickly start to break down when wet.“Ultimately it has to be down to infrastructure investment, public education and behavioural changes,” McKinlay says. “Plastics are an inherent part of our lives and not ‘all bad.’ Their responsible use and disposal/recycling should be a top priority.”

David Barckhoff-Sag-Aftra/Producer, Director
30 months ago

Its quite shocking that an estimated range from <1% to 4% of plastic wastes (the median about 1.25% - about 10milion tonnes per year) make it into the sea and oceans of this world and the harm this causing to the wild life with the realisation that plastic has become part of our diet - so almost every day most of us will ingest a small but increasing level of plastic.
Is it to late to stop this?
With new capacity for plastic production in the US coming on stream certainly something has to be done to stops us throwing litter or dumping waste that ends up along the banks of rivers, in rivers, estuaries, lakes, lakes and seas and oceans that surround our lands.
Can we do this?
Possibly but only if the plastics industry build in a social responsibility into their supply chains and consumer markets to prevent the end of life plastic entering the marine environment. The alternative to this is that demand for plastic falls as governments across the globe implement bans. Industry has some difficult choices to make.

Paul D
30 months ago

Have some input?