The Plastic Story

Volunteers Brieuc and Andreas working hard to clean up a 200 kg plastic fishing net from the marine environment. Photographer: Jonas Legernes

Volunteers Brieuc and Andreas working hard to clean up a 200 kg plastic fishing net from the marine environment. Photographer: Jonas Legernes

 
 

The plastic story

Even though the first synthetic plastic product was produced in 1907, it wasn’t until the 1950’s the mass production of plastic started. It was a cheap, durable material that was easy to shape. So durable, that all plastic products that have ever been produced, and not recycled, still exists.

Natural materials like wood, metal, glass, bone, ceramic and rubber was exponentially replaced by the new, synthetic material, plastic, which usually is made from petrochemicals (chemicals derived from oil, gas or coal).

In 1950, about 2 million tonnes of plastic was produced. In 2015, the plastic production had increased to 381 million tonnes.

Since 91% of plastic is not recycled, about 15 tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean per minute. Most of this comes from land and is washed down into the ocean with rain, weather, waterways and rivers.

Plastic being such strong, flexible and durable material has become its blessing and its curse. It’s a great material that you can build almost anything with. Even spacecrafts have parts made out of plastic. But because of its durability, plastic takes up to 500 years to break up, and when it finally is broken up it ends up in small, microscopic pieces and eventually toxic waste that enters the food chain at every level and harms nature.