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Mount Plastic

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 15 January 2019 | Views [50]




Standing on a beach, you stare out over the blue savana. You watch the gentle back and forth of the tide, reminding you of the calm, reassuring nod of someone much older and wiser than yourself. You think beneath the surface. You suddenly notice that your feet, whilst nestled in sand, are only inches away from a discarded beer can or plastic bottle. You scan the shore line, noticing small clusters of items being swept up by the climbing sea. You imagine the lacerated stomachs of baby seals. You watch schools of fish swimming into six-pack-rings as though they were nooses. You see litter rising as a legion from the ocean bed, breaking through the surface and forming the first man-made mountain, the discovery of which will be left to some future primitive species similar to yourself. Returning to the shore, you can no longer see the calming nod of the waves. Instead, you wonder if these perpetual motions are actually the beginnings of some planetary seizure.


Now, of course pollution has nothing to do with the tide. But we’ll have plenty of time to ruin that when whoever colonises the moon first is nuked by the runner-up. To get on point, it seems that for most of us when a problem is out of sight it is out of mind. No more is this prevalent than in environmental matters. If we were to time travel, assuming we could resist the urge to stop Donald Trump’s conception, we would bare witness to cities that literally threw their waste out of their windows, and not much has changed. Yes, we’re more hygienic about the process, but we’re still in a position where we are unwilling to accept responsibility for the waste we produce, the majority of which - you remind yourself as the water reaches your feet - is in the ocean.


The most common discarded items in the ocean are plastics, which are particularly harmful given that it takes the average plastic bottle up to 450 years to naturally degrade. The most frustrating fact about this is that plastics are recyclable! To put the issue into perspective, if the we were to ignore this problem, we would find that in ten years time there could be as much as 80 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean. If stacked, these plastics would dwarf the largest structures in the world. Part of me almost thinks it would be poetic. I imagine a huge shadow hanging over the empire state building as a top-floor executive complains about his view. I see New York’s residents visiting as though it were some national monument, proudly pointing to bottles they believe to have once been theirs. I see bored Children on school trips staring through binoculars and completing a checklist resembling a Where’s Wally of plastic products. I can see the plaque now - Mt Plastic:  $15 Admission: Open 24/7 for 450 years.

It’s hard not to be facetious when talking about environmental issues because it just seems to be a subject that we can effortlessly shake off, much like world hunger or foreign bombing. The truth is however, that if we were to change positively, then the oceans could very well be saved. That’s one thing about nature, its resilient. After all, the Thames, which now homes a variety of species, was declared dead by the Guardian in 1950 after German bombs destroyed its victorian sewage systems.

Tags: plastic

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