On today’s program, we’ll examine the global issue of plastic pollution and learn how the problem began. The production of plastic is relatively new; the first manufacture only began during the 1940’s. Over the ensuing decades, we have become increasingly reliant on plastic in many aspects of our lives. If we look around us, we’ll see that we’re surrounded by plastic. Since the development of plastic products began, we have produced approximately 8.3 billion tons of the material globally. While plastic is wonderfully strong and durable, it is also an environmental hazard for the same reason. This is so because non-biodegradable forms of plastic take hundreds of years to break down. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a plastic water bottle requires 450 years to decompose. Moreover, the vast extent of environmental damage caused by plastic is raising concern, particularly with regard to marine animals. The United Nations estimates that plastic causes the deaths of up to one million water birds every year. In 2017, a dead Cuvier’s beaked whale was discovered on the beaches of Norway, after having ingested 30 single-use plastic bags. In 2019, a dead pregnant sperm whale washed up on a beach in Sardinia, Italy. When her stomach was opened, researchers discovered 22 kg of plastic waste, including plastic fishing lines, plastic bags, plastic pipes, and even plastic dinner plates. “Due to irresponsible usage, plastic has become one of the most serious challenges in the ecological sphere.” 8 million tons of plastic end up in oceans every year Plastic makes up 10% of all of the waste we generate A million plastic bottles bought each minute 500 billion plastic bags used each year 67% of fish species in California are contaminated with plastic 94% of U.S. tap water 93% of bottled water contaminated by microplastics “They are saying, by 2050 there could be more plastic in the oceans than the fish.” What items are most frequently found in the ocean? Markus Eriksen, Co-Founder and Research Director of 5Gyres Institute explains, “What’s leaving land, heading out to sea is all this single-use packaging. It’s the straws, the bags, the bottles, the cup lids, the stir sticks; all this junk that we use once and throw away.” What can we do about this ever-growing problem? What are some of the most promising solutions?