Last week I attended the Bournemouth screening of A Plastic Ocean, a new documentary focusing on the rise of plastic consumption over the last half a century & the huge impact that its having on the world’s marine environment. As oceans cover 71% of the earth’s surface and hold almost 97% of the planet’s water, this is a massive global problem effecting us all. Journalist & Director Craig Leeson travels the world investigating the grave plastic problems facing species, habitats & communities, while also shining a light on many inattentive solutions. You can watch the Trailer & the full film is now available to download.
- Packaging accounts for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
- Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
- A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
- Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
All manner of polluting plastics were covered in the 100 minutes including 2012 nurdle spill in Hong Kong, when six containers carry 15 billion raw plastic pellets were washed overboard during a typhoon. Using social media, volunteers were soon coordinated to help with this impossible clean up operation, while manufacturer Sinotec assisted financial after being traced as the source of the nurdles
The social & health implications of colossal amounts plastic in oceans & coastal areas are highlighted by children in Manila scavenging through rubbish heaps for any plastic of value. Leeson interviewed a group of boys playing basketball by the water’s edge, they were cheeky & full of bravado as they spoke proudly of being able earn money to give to their mothers. While in Fiji crops are grown on top of decades worth of rubbish & waste is the form of make shift allotments & plastics are used as free alternatives to fuel for cooking, leading to cancer, fertility & respiratory issues.
The impact of plastics in the marine environment in well documented, plastic bags along with mass balloon releases are dangerous to turtles, mammals & seabirds and micro plastics including micro beads found in cosmetics are now in the seafood we consume. Perhaps the most shocking findings came from Dr Jennifer Lavers work with Shearwaters on the Australian Coast. One 90 day old chick was found to have already ingested 275 pieces of plastic weighing 15g, the equivalent of an average human have almost 10 kg of plastic in their stomach!
The documentary featured a short clip of Barack Obama & Sir David Attenborough in conversation about environmental issues including marine conservation, watch the full interview HERE.
The final 30 minutes of A Plastic Ocean focused on solutions to these wide ranging problems, including Plastic Bank fantastic #socialplastic initiative which helps communities through recycling & enterprise.
Along with experts & campaigner’s calls for changes in policy & practices from industry & governments in order to reverse millions of tonnes of plastic that enter the oceans each year, behaviour change from individuals is essential too.
There are many campaigns & projects in addition to simple changes that will greatly reduce your plastic consumption. But plastic is all around us, in the film both Craig Leeson & record breaking free diver Tanya Streeter investigated plastics in food packaging, in supermarkets, cafes & take away. Many establishments could not offer an alternative to a single use cup that would be used for a matter of minutes. But with refill schemes like Refill Bristol & compostable cutlery like Vegware reducing your plastic is achievable.
A Plastic Ocean is essential viewing, in a similar vein to the incredible Racing Extinction (which is also a must see documentary!) conbining stunning footage with a accessable information from leading scientists & activists. The screening I attended was held in a school hall with a wide range of people attending on a cold January evening, people will’ve left like me with a scence of both urgency & hope that we all have to tackle this plastic problem.