Once a revolutionary invention, it's now filling up our oceans and killing thousands of whales, birds, turtles... Just how much plastic do we have around us?

Would our life be less comfortable without it? How many animal species could we save by getting rid of plastic debris? Your plastic bag is actually chemically processed natural gas or oil. You can tear it, or burn it, or throw it away when you’re done with it. But it won’t decompose the way this loaf of bread will.

Since the 1950s we’ve created 6.3 billion tons of plastic. 9% of it we’ve recycled, another 12% – incinerated. That leaves us with 4.9 billion tonnes of plastic waste. If we could gather it all in one place, this plastic mountain would be bigger than Mount Everest.

A lot of this waste ends up in the sea, killing marine animals who mistake this indigestible synthetic for food. If we eliminated plastics from our lives, we’d save hundreds of marine species from entanglement and plastic ingestion. But what about us? What would our routine be like without plastic?

How much do we depend on plastic anyway? Even if you avoided using plastic containers to bring your lunch to work, or bagged your groceries with reusable shopping bags, you’d still be a far cry from going absolutely plastic-free. Plastic is everywhere.

Aluminium cans are lined with a plastic resin. Without it, your coke would corrode within three days. Paper cups hide a thin layer of plastic, too. How do you think they keep the liquid inside?

No plastic would also mean no tea bags, since they are heat sealed with polyethylene. Without plastic, grocery shopping would look very different. Our liquids would come in glass bottles. Our meats and cheese would be wrapped in paper. You’d pack all your groceries into paper bags or cardboard boxes.

One of the main benefits of plastic packaging is that it keeps food fresh longer. Without this basic method of food preservation, a lot of our food would need to be raised or grown locally, and much of it would only available seasonally.

Organic waste would fill up the landfills and become our main environmental concern. Our clothing would be limited to natural fibers – no polyester socks, nylon dresses or acrylic sweaters. Say goodbye to your fleece jacket. Heat and water resistant safety wear wouldn’t exist either.

And you wouldn’t be able to watch this video – without the plastic needed for electrical insulation, there would be no inexpensive circuits to build your phone or computer. Even early electronics in the 1910s used plastic – one of the first plastics – Bakelite.

Without any plastic, we’d be stuck in the 1870, still using non-durable and hazardous lacquer and rubber to insulate our wires. All the progress we’ve made in affordable electronics would never have happened..

But at least we wouldn’t be polluting the Earth with disposable coffee cups, water bottles, toothbrushes and other plastic stuff. And 700 marine species wouldn’t be affected by plastic debris. If the thought of someone taking your plastic away doesn’t ruin your day, consider moving to Kenya or Bangladesh, where it’s illegal to use plastic bags.

And you might consider getting some of these slimy pets – 6,000 wax worms can eat up a plastic bag in just one hour. You could set up an organic recycling station right in your home.


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