Plastic waste comprises about 12 percent of the total amount of garbage worldwide. Plastic originates from fossil fuel pumped out of the earth at considerable expense. Only about 9 percent of it is recycled. The rest of it becomes garbage and is scattered worldwide, eventually winding up in the ocean.
Approximately 8 billion tons of plastic are in our oceans now along with unknowable megatons in our landfills and scattered throughout our environment. Some of this plastic is recognizable items such as shopping bags, bottles, bottle caps, toys, automobile parts, food wrappers, fishing gear, cigarette filters, sunglasses, buckets and toilet seats. Much of it, however, has degraded into tiny flecks of plastic called “microplastic.” Microplastic degrades even further into “nanoplastic.”
Today, plastic is found in almost everything we eat. Even more disturbing, the stuff floats in the air. We’re all breathing it. There is growing evidence that toxins associated with plastic are responsible for human health problems such as cancers and brain, reproductive and cardiovascular damage.
Perhaps the greatest problem with plastic is its contribution to the death of phytoplankton in the ocean. Through the process of photosynthesis, phytoplankton release oxygen–more than half of the world’s oxygen. The remainder is from trees and plants on land, which are also severely stressed by global climate change, massive fires and logging.
Take a deep breath. Now imagine if you had to breath twice as deep to get the same amount of oxygen.
Even if every particle of plastic were relegated to landfills, the toxins in it would still gradually enter aquifers, shallow water tables, the ocean, ocean life, our food, and us. However, landfills are filling up faster than they were projected to, and nobody wants a new landfill in their neighborhood.
Altruistic beach and waterway cleanups and bans on single-use plastics, where they occur, are only partial solutions to this problem. We thought recycling was also a partial solution. At least we thought so before January 2018, when China stopped accepting plastic shipped from other countries. Since then, plastic has become prohibitively more expensive for sanitary services to process.
Something else is needed to solve this problem.
So we’ll get right to the point: we Plastic Up-Cycling Oregon volunteers won’t get very far unless we do something to make what is now toxic waste into profit. We live in a free market. Profit is motivation. So: Our mission is to bring together entrepreneurs, governmental and civil authorities, charities and facilitating and funding organizations to convert discarded plastic into useful durable — and profitable — products.