by Joseph M. Mercola
March 21, 2015
While you may not directly feel
the impact of garbage
while going about your day to day life, it's quite literally choking
the life out of our ecosystem, and the situation is getting worse
with each passing day.
Eventually, we will all suffer the very real consequences as the
world dies around us.
As stated in the below featured documentary, Inside the
Garbage of the World,
"we're going to create an environmental
catastrophe that we may not be able to recover from."
Many take for granted that their garbage "magically
disappears" once it's picked up by the garbage truck, but nothing
could be further from the truth. Most garbage does not disappear.
It's simply relocated to a landfill or a recycling center.
Trash also makes its way down storm drains and into
Garbage of the World
The Abomination That Is
Our throwaway mentality has created a pollution problem that now
threatens the future of humanity itself.
Plastic trash is of
particular concern, as bits and pieces of plastic are mistaken for
food by birds and sea animals.
Debris in the ocean also blocks sunlight from which plankton and
algae sustain themselves, and this has negative implications on up
the food chain as it eventually becomes micronized and winds up in
some of the seafood you eat.
Also, once in the waterways, plastic particles also act like sponges
for waterborne contaminants such as PCBs, pesticides like DDT,
herbicides, PAHs, and other persistent organic pollutants.
This phenomenon makes plastics far from benign, and scientists have
yet to determine the full extent of the dangers posed by their
consumption, or the effects higher up the food chain - which is
where you are.
Plastic pollution is an enormous problem, worldwide. According to
the documentary, an estimated 4.7 million tons of plastic ends up in
our oceans each year, where wave action turns them into a plastic
soup that damages sea life and marine ecosystems.
Eighty percent of this plastic comes from land; the rest is litter
from ships, boats, and industrial platforms.
Rivers and streams are equally affected by plastic trash. For
example, as noted by Dan Glaser with the Surfrider Foundation, 30-75
percent of all pollution found in the Ventura River in California is
In Hawaii, there are remote beaches where you cannot even see the
sand for all the plastic washed ashore. An estimated 17 tons of
debris is collected on Kamilo Point and adjacent beaches each year.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind -
Oceans Turning into Landfills
Plastics such as polycarbonate, polystyrene, and PETE sink to the
bottom, where they smother and kill marine life on the ocean floor.
Other plastics such as LDPE, HDPE, polypropylene and foamed plastics
Partially broken down plastic particulate also fills the water
column between the ocean floor and the surface. The largest landfill
in the world is in fact not located on land but in the Pacific
Ocean, in the North Pacific Gyre.
Ninety percent of the trash making
up this "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is plastic.
The area of increased plastic
is located within the
North Pacific Gyre,
one of the five major oceanic
The North Pacific gyre contains two sub-gyres (Eastern and Western)
where trash collects as a result of rotating currents.
Garbage Patch covers an area equal to half the size of the
continental United States, and the Western Garbage Patch is somewhat
Contrary to the image publicized by the media, these are not solid
floating "islands" of trash.
The pollution is dispersed; not only on the surface,
but also throughout the water column and across the ocean floor, but
the rotating currents do gather and concentrate the trash into these
great swaths of ocean covering thousands of miles.
As noted by Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5 Gyres Institute:1
"If it were an island of garbage, it would
actually be a better thing, because we'd be able to really,
truly communicate this issue to the public.
One of the difficulties with this plastic issue is that it's so
hard to engage the public in feeling the urgency... People want
to see an island of garbage, and when they see images of blue
waters, they think that it's not really a big deal.
The reality... is that it's more like a plastic soup... It's
this plastic soup of "confetti" that is very diffuse. The
difficulty is that it covers so much ground..."
Plastic Particles Outnumber
Plankton 36 to 1
According to one United Nations report, 2 there
are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.
larger pieces of plastic do not remain intact. It breaks up into
increasingly smaller pieces, which make their way into the food
An estimated 300,000 animals die each year either from ingested
plastic, or getting tangled in plastic. One young sperm whale that
washed ashore dead in California was found to have 400 pounds of
plastic in its stomach.
In Midway Island, where 20 tons of plastic wash ashore each year,
deceased albatrosses have been found with lighters, bottle caps and
other chunks of plastic in their bellies. Ditto for birds, turtles,
dolphins, seals, fish, and more.
Disturbingly, the plastic to plankton ratio in the North Pacific is
increasing rapidly and exponentially.
Tests in 1999 found a plastic
to plankton ratio of six to one. By 2007, that ratio had jumped to
36 to one! So it got six times worse in a matter of about eight
Now another eight years have gone by, so that ratio is undoubtedly
even higher today, and will continue to rise until we change our
ways... The question is how long will our oceans continue to sustain
life at this pace?
Research3 shows that biodegradable plastics aren’t all they’re
cracked up to be either. Biodegradable plastics are treated with
additives that are supposed to help the plastic break down faster.
But a recent study found that biodegradable plastics
degraded no faster than untreated, non-biodegradable plastic, so
this really isn’t a viable alternative either.
ALL of the World's Oceans
Are Clogging Up with Plastic
There are a total of five subtropical gyres:
the Indian, North and
South Atlantic, and North and South Pacific.
All of them trap and collect trash in their rotating
currents, and as noted by Anna Cummins, whose
5 Gyres Institute has
now collected water samples from all five gyres, mankind has altered
the constitution of our oceans on a global scale.
All but two of the 500 water samples the Institute has gathered
contained plastic. The two that did not were collected in an area
off of Chile. Plastic chemicals are an added concern.
for catastrophic biological consequences for every species on the
planet is growing with every discarded bottle and bag.
like BPA disrupt embryonic development in
both animals and humans, and are linked to heart disease and cancer.
As reported in this film, one seafood test done in Singapore
revealed BPA in every single seafood sampled.
This is a real concern - the fish are eating plastic
and swimming in plastic chemicals, and we're at the top of the food
chain eating them...
Phthalates - another plastic chemical - dysregulate gene expression
and cause genital anomalies, especially in baby boys, that may pass
down several generations. Prenatal phthalate exposure has also been
linked to reduced IQ in children, and DEHP may lead to multiple
By altering the composition of our oceans with plastic, we're
ruining the building blocks of life, including carbon, oxygen, and
So, whether you look at environmental or biological
effects, our careless use of plastics has created a rapidly
The Dangers of Plastic Bags
We Can No Longer Afford the
Price of Convenience
At the heart of the waste problem is a materialistic society that
encourages buying more and more "stuff."
Acquiring things you don't really need can take a
massive toll on the environment, in more ways than you may realize.
The Western penchant for single-use items is particularly
If you have not seen it yet, I highly recommend you
watch below 'The Story of Stuff,' as it does a phenomenal job of
illustrating the real effects of over-consumption and
All of this "stuff",
all the other material goods that we
use to express our status and "personal value",
...carry a hefty price
tag, not just for your wallet but also for the planet and the people
who live on it.
The Story of Stuff details what goes into the making
of all these products; the processes of extraction (trashing the
planet), production (adding in toxic chemicals), distribution,
consumption, and ultimately disposal.
The impact all of this has on communities at home and
abroad are hidden from your view, yet it is immense.
Adding to the problem is planned obsolescence, on a functional,
design, and even aesthetic level, which makes perfectly good
products obsolete or just plain "undesirable." It is because of
built-in obsolescence that you've probably traded in your perfectly
good computer or smartphone just to get a newer model.
It's also the reason why certain products break after
a number of uses and have to be repeatedly replaced.
How to Cut Down on Your
Bottled water is perhaps one of the most environmentally unfriendly
industries there is.
Americans alone go through and ultimately discard
about half a billion bottles of water every week. The environmental
ramifications of this practice are enormous, so becoming more
responsible about what we buy and how we discard our waste is not
just a "nice idea."
I believe it is an absolute necessity...
Recycling responsibly is one step in the right direction, but I
believe it's even more important to reduce and reuse what we have
first, as much as possible. It's worth remembering that mankind had
a zero waste lifestyle up until about 100 years ago. There were no
plastic wraps around the foods and items you bought, and virtually
every scrap, be it fabric, paper, wood, or metal, was repeatedly
reused; creatively refashioned into new products.
We need to rethink our throwaway culture and become more sustainably
creative. Ideally, seek to purchase products that are not made from
or packaged in plastic.
Another important point is to choose reusable over
single-use, which is possible in most instances.
Here are a few ideas:
shopping bags for groceries
Take your own
leftovers container to restaurants
Bring your own mug
for coffee, and bring drinking water from home
in glass water bottles instead of buying bottled
Request no plastic
wrap on your newspaper and dry cleaning
Store foods in glass
containers or mason jars rather than plastic
containers and plastic freezer bags
utensils and buy foods in bulk when you can
non-disposable razors, washable feminine hygiene
products for women, cloth diapers, handkerchiefs
instead of paper tissues, rags in lieu of paper
towels, and infant toys made of wood rather than
foods (which are stored in plastic bags with
chemicals). Buy fresh produce instead, and forgo
the plastic bags
Where Will Your Descendants
Live, if Not on Earth?
These are just a few ideas - I'm sure you can think of many more.
Please do take care to recycle and repurpose products
whenever possible, especially ones that are not available in
anything other than plastic. This includes giving your clothes or
gently used household items to charities, and frequenting
second-hand stores instead of buying new.
Make use of online sites like
allow you to give products you no longer need away to others instead
of throwing them away.
In general, purchasing locally sourced and locally crafted goods
will be best for the environment and your local economy. You may
need to pay more for such items, but chances are they'll far outlast
mass-produced versions, which means you won't need to throw it away
and acquire a new one.
For items you cannot get made locally, seek out
responsible companies that do not exploit people or the environment
to make your purchases from.
Last but not least, consider asking yourself more often:
"Do I really need this?"
Overconsumption in general is an issue for most
people in Western societies; the problem is, all this buying and
throwing items away is like borrowing life from our children that we
can never pay back.
Once the Earth is too clogged with plastic to sustain
life, where will our children and grandchildren live?