We use so much plastic in our day-to-day lives, you probably can't imagine life without it. According to the 2014 documentary Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, available on Netflix, the United States alone produces 115 billion pounds of plastic every year. Whether we're drinking from a water bottle or packing up groceries, we've been known to use plastic because it's inexpensive and convenient. But where does plastic go once we throw it away?
Journalist Angela Sun set out to find the answer to this question, and during her documented journey, she finds out just how harmful plastic and its toxic chemicals can be to humans, wildlife and the future of our environment. She reminds viewers to be mindful of "what we do with it, how much we produce of it and how we dispose of it" because plastic never goes away completely.
Sun interviewed multiple Americans to ask if they knew what happens after they dispose of plastic items. No one had a concrete answer, but some were aware that there's an "island of garbage" out in the Pacific Ocean. Also, most interviewees were unsure if that island truly exists today.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is real – and it's located midway between the West Coast of the United States and the east coast of Japan. Sun explained that the ocean moves in a motion that gathers trash from some of the most populated areas of the world. Approximately twice the size of Texas, the trash collection includes bottles, propane tanks, lighters and much more. Even the smallest pieces of plastic – some dating back to the 1970s and '80s – remain hazardous to the surrounding area's on- and off-land wildlife.
Even though most people are conscious of recycling efforts, the documentary states that only 5% of the world's plastic can actually be recycled. The following tips from Plastic Paradise can help reduce our dependence on plastic items.
1. Use reusable bottles.
Invest in a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle to avoid ingesting any harmful chemicals found in plastic. You could also look into purchasing a bottle labeled BPA-free. Have any plastic bottles sitting around? Upcycle and reuse them!
2. Avoid extra packaging.
When it's time for your next grocery store or general shopping outing, ditch the plastic grocery bags and bring your own reusable cloth bags. To avoid extra packaging, you can also shop locally at your neighborhood farmer's market! Typically, any packaged items – such as homemade jams or household products – use glass jars.
3. Hold others accountable.
The documentary shows how plastic is "firmly embedded into modern life." However, as consumers, we have both the ability and responsibility to improve the well-being of our peers and environment. Encourage others around you to avoid plastic where possible.