In 2019, the Earth Overshoot Day was on July 29, the earliest ever. This is the day when people have exhausted the regenerative resources of 2019. From July 30 we started to consume more resources than the planet can regenerate in a year, so there is an ecological deficit. The Overshoot Day in Estonia was on the 26th of March mostly due to producing energy from fossil sources (oil shale). More info: https://www.overshootday.org
- Plastic is a strong material that does not biodegrade in nature, but it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces – plastic becomes microplastic (particles with less than five millimeters in diameter), which in turn disintegrates into nanoplastic (particles with less than 0.1 micron in diameter). Wastewater and sewage spread microplastics so that, in addition to the ocean, they end up in soil and freshwater. (UN Environment, 2018)
- In the oceans, the most dangerous plastic is the one that cannot be seen by the naked eye (Johnson & Coull, 2014).
- Birds, fish and marine animals eat small colored plastic waste because it resembles their own food (Le Guem, 2018).
- In addition to this plastic found in the ocean, plastic has been found in more than 90% of stomachs of tested seabirds (Wilcox et al. 2015), in more than half of the world’s sea turtles (Schuyler et al. 2015) and it even affects whales (Unger et al. 2016).
- Plastic, when disintegrating into smaller pieces, also negatively affect phytoplankton (Bergami et al., 2017; Mao, et al., 2018). Phytoplankton accounts for about 50% of the total photosynthetic activity of the globe, binding carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into oxygen and sugars (The importance of plankton, 2015).
- Zooplankton, which is a staple food source for fish and marine animals in aquatic ecosystems, is also able to eat nanoplastic because it can’t distinguish it from phytoplankton (Desforges, Galbraith & Ross, 2015).
- Plastic straws are no longer considered to be the best known garbage problem in the world – instead, it’s cigarette filters and, more specifically, a filter made of cellulose acetate fibers that does not biodegrade (Lazarus, CNN, 2019).
- Of the approximately six trillion cigarettes smoked each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette filters end up in nature (Araujo & Costa, 2019).
- Nicotine in cigarette filters can cause neurotoxicity, as well as additional exposure to toxic chemicals in the aquatic environment (due to leaching), including heavy metals, ethylphenol and pesticide residues (Novotny et al. 2011 & refs therein).
- Cigarette butts can inhibit plant growth (Green et al. 2019).
- Animals and birds are indiscriminate eaters: that is, they cannot distinguish between food and plastic waste, including cigarette butts. Cigarette butts can either suffocate or poison them with various toxins from which they are unable to recover (Novotny et al. 2011 & refs therein).
- One cigarette butt can poison up to 1000 liters of water (Plastic Oceans: MEPs back EU ban on throwaway).
- Cigarettes contain at least 4,000 chemicals, about 50 of which are carcinogenic (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2004).
- Toxic substances leaching from a single cigarette butt are lethal to fish (Slaughter et al., 2011).
- Up to 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed every year in the world, that means almost 10 million plastic bags per minute. If they were tied together, the plastic bags used in one hour could be wrapped around the world seven times (UNEP roadmap on single use plastics, 2018).
- Almost 50% of all plastic has been produced in the last 15 years (Jenna Jambeck, National Geographic, 2018).
- It takes more than 400 years for plastic to decompose, so most of the plastic produced still exists in some form on Earth (Jenna Jambeck, National Geographic, 2018).
- According to a Greenpeace report, of the 260 million tonnes of plastic produced in 2005, 10% reached the ocean (Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, 2006).
- Plastic waste kills about 100,000 marine animals a year, plus millions of birds and fish (Le Guem, 2018).
- Coastal areas alone deliver 5.3 to 14 million tonnes of plastic waste to the ocean. Most of it is not discarded from ships but is carelessly dumped on land or into rivers, especially in Asia. It is carried into the sea by wind or waves (Parker, 2018).
- At the rate that plastic accumulates in oceans, by 2050 the weight of plastic in oceans will exceed that of all the fish that live there (World Economic Forum, 2016).
- Many plastics emit greenhouse gases when they disintegrate and contribute to the climate disaster (Royer, Ferron, Wilson & Karl, 2018).