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I'm a freelance journalist, currently based in Madrid. I used to be a News Producer at CNBC in London before, but I thought a little bit more sun might do me good. Now I write for several news organizations, covering a range of topics, from Spanish politics and human rights for Deutsche Welle to climate change for La Marea.
We have a problem with plastic. Since the 1950s, we have produced 8.3 billion tons of it. In 2015 alone, we produced 400 million tons. It's the third most produced material, after concrete and steel.
Of all the plastic ever produced, 76% (6.3 billion tons) has been discarded. Most of it ends up in landfill or incinerated, which is already bad enough, but some of it ends up in the ocean. 8 million tons of the stuff end up in the sea every year. By 2050, if things keep up like this, oceanic plastic will outweigh fish.
Plastic degrades and becomes torn into microscopic pieces, known as microplastics. These are extremely hard to detect and clean, and can even affect human health, as they get incorporated into the food chain through fish.
There are places in the Pacific Ocean where microplastics accumulate. Currents and winds bring them together, in what has come to be known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There isn't an accurate measure of how big it is, or how many of these patches are there. But now, over 100,000 people, headed by Al Gore, are demanding that one of these patches, which is reportedly as big as France, be recognised as a state, of which they would become citizens.
Obviously, it's all a publicity stunt. The chances of the Trash Isles (as the would-be-nation has been baptised) being recognised as a state are minimal. But here we are, talking about it and starting to think that we should probably cut down on plastics. So it worked, right?
“If you think any of this is ridiculous, then please consider the idea that there’s an area cumulatively the size of France made up entirely of waste plastic in the sea.”
And it worked because the campaign (explained in this article) is really clever. The team behind it has designed all sorts of mock documents, from passports to stamps, and notes of a fictional currency called "Debris". The article will not teach you much about plastic, but the idea and the design are greatly executed.