“Just a minute.” We say it all of the time. We tell our kids to wait – just a minute. We tell someone whose time we need that it’ll take – just a minute. When we look at our to-do lists we cram errands in between that will only be – just a minute. But a lot can happen in a minute. The human brain can read up to 900 words. A red blood cell travels your whole circulatory system and back to your heart. About 250 babies are born. There’s even that whole “one-minute rule” challenge out there getting people to commit to doing any task that seems like it would take a minute or less and people are getting things done left and right! A minute is a lot more than it seems. And there are 1,440 of them in a day. Which means you get about 960 waking ones (assuming you’re getting roughly 8 hours of sleep a night – a veritable pipe dream for many of us).
But one thing started happening every minute recently that is already disastrous: one million plastic bottles are bought every minute. One million single-use plastic bottles. The kind that gets used once (or twice by a small subset of the population). And then, tossed. Over 90% of which are not recycled. This is an enormous problem. Here’s why.
Landfills are FULL
If more than 90% of these bottles are not recycled, where do they go? To the landfill. Which, when we were younger felt like this invisible place that our trash went but we now know the truth: landfills are damaging our ecosystem. More than 30 years ago in 1986, the New York Times ran a headline about a garbage crisis – that landfills were running out of space. Think of how much garbage we’ve produced since then. And now with a million plastic bottles a minute, it’s inconceivable! Microplastics can now even penetrate groundwater, which means our drinking water is in danger.
Fish v. Plastic
No, it’s not a Supreme Court case, it’s a reality. By 2050, it is estimated that we will have more plastic in the ocean by weight than fish. That is worrying on many levels. Not the least of which is that our ocean life is dying. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, what about the fact that because fish are consuming microplastics and we eat fish, we are eating microplastics as well?
But, they’re recyclable!
We explained earlier that more than 90% of the million bottles a minute are not recycled. Why? Well, it’s a combination of things. First, people have to sort them. Then assuming they’re properly sorted, municipalities have to commit to recycling them (either on their own or by selling them to companies or countries that do). The United States used to sell much of our plastic recycling to China. But in 2017, China announced that it was not going to buy it anymore.
What’s the solution?
“The greatest trick corporations ever played was making us think we could recycle their products,” said the New York Times at the end of 2019. And they were right. We think, “oh this is recyclable” – so we buy it. But just because something isrecyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled. So we have to stop buying it to begin with. We know we can’t not buy anyplastic. It is too ingrained in our world to be entirely avoidable without serious commitment that for many folks is unrealistic. But don’t buy plastic beverage bottles. The reality is, if people stop buying them, companies won’t be able to sell them. It’s a supply and demand issue. Then they’ll have to get on board and start changing their models. We’ll always have a need for beverages (our bodies are mostly water after all!) but if we can bring our own water bottles or buy our drinks in glass or other alternatives, we’ll be changing our stats – for the better.
Here’s to jumping below a million bottles a minute. Stat.