World

Drowning in a sea of plastic

Published 7:11 PM ET, Sun January 14, 2018
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Disposable plastic straws are not recyclable, therefore they often end up in landfills, oceans, or the environment. Americans throw away half a billion of them every day, according to the National Park Service. Shutterstock
The city of Seattle will be one of the first to impose a ban on plastic straws and utensils starting in June 2018. In the UK, pub chain Wetherspoons has stopped serving plastic straws across 900 outlets, switching to a biodegradable alternative. Shutterstock
Plastic pollution has rapidly accelerated, with eight million tons entering the marine environment each year, according to scientists. This figure is set to rise as production of the material is set to double over the next 20 years. NOEL CELIS/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Some researchers estimate there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by the year 2050. plastic oceans
Endangered species such as sea turtles could be driven to extinction by the plastic plague. NOAA
In many of the worst affected countries such as China and the Philippines, local people lack the infrastructure to properly dispose of plastic waste. In some cases they burn it, releasing dangerous gases associated with cancer. China Photos/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
There are also concerns that people are consuming dangerous plastic through contaminated fish. A recent survey, published in Scientific Reports journal, revealed that a quarter of market fish in Indonesia and California contain plastic. TED ALJIBE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
British producer Jo Ruxton and her team have spent four years documenting the effects of plastic pollution for the upcoming documentary "A Plastic Ocean." She hopes the film will challenge people and societies to stop thinking of the material as disposable. plastic oceans
The crew visited dozens of sites from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and Hawaii, without ever finding a plastic-free location. The average square kilometer of ocean contains around 20,000 microplastic pieces. Joe Raedle/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
The film documents the effects of plastic on marine life. More than one million seabirds are estimated to be killed every year through entanglement and ingestion, often mistaking plastic for food. NOAA
There are different ideas about how to address the crisis. The U.S. National and Atmospheric Association favors beach cleaning and public education at local level, combined with challenging policymakers and plastic producers to promote conservation. NOAA
Recycling efforts are becoming more creative. Plastic waste is now converted into building materials in Cameroon and the Philippines. Charging for plastic bags and bottles and bags has helped to reduce waste. REINNIER KAZE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat has a more ambitious vision. The 21-year-old has designed a huge trash-eating machine that he intends to deploy at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He believes it can remove 99% of the debris within 30 years. Photographer: Jurg Roessen