The Green Leaf

Our plastic lives

February 5th, 2016
The World Economic Forum's latest study predicts there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Photo from firmm.org.

The World Economic Forum's latest study predicts there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Photo from firmm.org.

It's hard to imagine a life without plastic.

Even if you're conscious about plastic pollution issues and the amount of plastic debris in the oceans, there is plastic in your life.

If you drive a Toyota Prius hybrid, you're driving around in a car with parts made from plastic.  If you have an Apple laptop, you're typing on a keyboard made from plastic. If you've got a kid in school, plastic Ziploc bags were probably on the list of school supplies to buy at the beginning of the year.

You buy something from Costco, and chances are it's wrapped in plastic even if you carted it home in a cardboard box. It's a material that has so many uses, and I've got to admit that when it comes to picking up dog poop, you want something like a plastic bag to pick it up with.

But it's also mind-boggling when you learn that the world's oceans are on track to contain more plastic than fish (by weight) in 2050, as predicted by the latest report released by the World Economic Forum.

The report also finds:

>> The use of plastics has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century is expected to double again in the next 20 years. Plastic packaging represents about a third of the total volume of plastics used.

>> After a short, first use, about $80 to $120 billion in plastic packaging material is lost to the economy. Only about 14 percent of plastic packaging is actually collected for recycling.

>> Each year, at least 8 million tons of plastics end up in the ocean, the equivalent of one garbage truck dumping its contents into the ocean every minute. If business continues as usual, the ocean is expected to contain more plastics than fish in weight by 2050.

There's a solution to all this, though, according to the WEF, if we embrace a New Plastic Economy where plastics never become waste, but re-enter the economy as items of value. If we were to reduce all of the plastic packaging that we toss away, but adopt more reusable packaging. Plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers would play a critical role.

The new "Plastic Fantastic?" exhibit opened at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House on Wednesday, Feb. 3. It offers a historical retrospective on the use of plastics over the last century, but also offers us a glimpse of the material through contemporary art. It's up until July 10.

What do you do to reduce your use of plastic? 

This sculptural piece made from reused plastics is by artist Aurora Robson. It's entitled "Midas." Courtesy Aurora Robson.

This sculptural piece made from reused plastics is by artist Aurora Robson. It's entitled "Midas."
Courtesy Aurora Robson.

Singer Jack Johnson with students from Kamaile Academy examine a photo of an albatross carcass from Midway by Seattle artist Chris Jordan on display at the Plastic Fantastic? exhibit at Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Singer Jack Johnson with students from Kamaile Academy examine a photo of an albatross carcass from Midway by Seattle artist Chris Jordan on display at the Plastic Fantastic? exhibit at Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Kim and Jack Johnson talk about the new Plastic Fantastic exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Kim and Jack Johnson talk about the new Plastic Fantastic exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Works of art by New York artist Aurora Robson suspended from the ceiling at Spalding House's Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Works of art by New York artist Aurora Robson suspended from the ceiling at Spalding House's Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

 

Jack Johnson, Kim Johnson, founders of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and Aaron Padilla, curator of Spalding House, pose before one of the sculptures before it was unpacked for the Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Jack Johnson, Kim Johnson, founders of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and Aaron Padilla, curator of Spalding House, pose before one of the sculptures before it was unpacked for the Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

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