It’s in our landfills, it’s in our oceans, and it might even be in your tap water.
Worse yet, there is a good chance it’s already in your body!
The vast majority of plastic we use today is a derivative of fossil fuels the first of which were derived from coal tar in 1907 by Belgian-born American Leo Baekeland.
Within a generation, many of the synthetic plastics we know today were born – polyester in 1930, and nylon in 1935.
During WWII and afterwards, plastic became a cheap and affordable substitute to traditional manufacturing and packaging materials. This was due to both substantial plastic production for military equipment as well as more domestic use of plastic, as traditional metals and materials such as copper, aluminum, and steel were diverted to the war effort.
At this time, the plastic industry was truly born and here to stay.
But how bad has it gotten exactly? A little plastic can’t be that bad, right?
If only it was a little…..
In 1950, the world produced over 1.5 million tons of plastic –however today, it’s over 320 million tons of plastic per year! What’s even more terrifying is that yearly number is set to DOUBLE in the next 10-20 years.
Aside from being non-biodegradable and cluttering our landfills, this is having an even more devastating effect on our oceans and marine wildlife.
If you were already concerned about mercury in your fish, you should be even more concerned that plastic is being consumed by all types of marine wildlife.
Today, 1 out of 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic!
This can cause a whole host of health problems, including a strong link to different types of cancer.
For my vegan or vegetarian friends that don’t eat fish….THIS AFFECTS YOU TOO!
Remember that plastic affects ALL wildlife, and the oxygen we all breathe, since 70% of all oxygen is produced by marine plants!
And over 94% of tap water in the United States has been found to be contaminated with plastic fibers.
This issue is highly correlated to virtually every environmental and plant/animal welfare concern.
Sadly, regardless of your food choices, environmental and wildlife welfare conservation, plastic pollution has to be amongst the top of your list of global concerns – because there are tons of substitutes for food and energy……
….BUT ZERO substitutes for oxygen and water!
What can I do? What can you do? What can we all do collectively?
We can certainly try to clean up our oceans and beaches from existing plastic pollution. There has been great enthusiasm for an ambitious project led by a young entrepreneur, Boyan Slat, to clean up over 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within 5 years through advanced marine clean up systems.
You can read more about that here.
This is perhaps the most grandiose ocean clean up project ever attempted, and we applaud this effort to clean up virtually 1 trillion pieces of plastic!
Here’s the truth.
If we don’t CHANGE our manufacturing and consumption behavior, we are at best, running in place.
It’s a lot like running on the treadmill every day for an hour, while eating fast food three times per day. It’s certainly better than nothing, but won’t make a significant impact alone.
And just like you can’t out train a bad diet, you can’t create true lasting change in the global environment without huge changes in how big business, and more importantly, individual consumers, behave.
Yo Wardrobe is Riding Dirty………
What’s the industry where we see the biggest potential for change?
Fashion is amongst the world’s dirtiest and most polluting industries in the world. That’s a fact many of us in the fashion industry never knew, or worse, choose to ignore.
The reason is that today, plastic use in fashion garments across the board is EVERYWHERE.
The biggest offenders are polyester, nylon, and spandex.
But in the plastic game of thrones, polyester is our synthetic king.
Did you know polyester is the world’s leading garment fiber?
I didn’t. And it has been. For a long time. In fact, synthetic fibers make up nearly 2/3 of all fiber consumption!
It’s not just your windbreaker, umbrella, or snowpants that are made of plastic based synthetic fibers like polyester – virtually all garments today are a blend that contain a percentage of synthetic fibers – especially your disposable fashion brands like H&M that ARE DESIGNED end up in a landfill sooner than later.
Additionally, one of the largest growing markets in fashion has been the active wear industry – and virtually all of these garments has the vast majority of it’s fabrics made of either polyester, nylon, or spandex.
Without actionable change, the trends will only continue in the wrong direction. The way it’s headed now, plastic based synthetic fabrics, and especially polyester, is expected to continue to skyrocket over the next 20 years.
I’m searching at the (WO)man in the mirror (Jamon!)….
The reason we see the greatest potential for change in the fashion industry is because so many of YOU care about the environment.
So many of YOU actively recycle….
So many of YOU are aware and make efforts to combat climate change….
So many of YOU are animal lovers, and care especially about endangered species most affected by this issue, both directly and indirectly….
The answer is simple! Buy clothing that is sustainably sourced and produced. There are a ton of organic cotton clothing companies out there, and there are also sustainable and eco-friendly brands that actually used recycled water bottles to produce polyester.