Plastic comes back to bite us

Local | Jul 18, 2017
The very first forms of plastic were around more than 400 years ago, but the modern format coming back to bite us (or be bitten by us) has only been around since the early 1940s, when it was first mass-produced and available to all.

Ironically it was hailed as a way to help the planet; to replace items made from trees, plants, animal bones, skin, tusks and horns.

We patted ourselves on the back as we consumed plastic by the megatonne.

No more paper bags, use plastic and save a tree.

Consumerism, however, demands that we design items with built-in obsolescence, so plastic, hailed as the savior of the natural world, is suddenly outdated and we need to dispose of it. Except it isn't - disposable, that is. It lasts and lasts and lasts and turns up in horrifying places. Like the stomachs of whales, which feed on deep-sea fish or the intestines of turtles, birds or seals, or in crustaceans.

It could take 1,000 years for a drink bottle to degrade and even then it might not be to the point of non-existence, just so small we can't know the damage it could cause.

Rivers and beaches show a picture that replaces a million words - plastic piling up against land and in tidal pools, plastic forced to the bottom of rivers by the sheer volume of trash constantly washing in with tides and storms.

Metal will eventually degrade and return to the Earth from which it came, but plastic is insidious. For animals, it mimics food or even tastes like the food it once contained, so it easily becomes a death-dealing meal.

Don't leave plastic behind when you go to the countryside or seaside.

If you really want to imagine humans (or anything, for that matter) living on Earth in 10,000 years, then take away your own trash and collect at least two pieces of someone else's rubbish each time you visit somewhere that should be just for the birds and the bees and not festering mounds of million-year-old plastic.

And recycle, so no more needs to be produced, to lie in wait for our descendants in 1,000 years.

Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four- legged waifs and strays.

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April 2018