Hello everyone! We’ve put together a thorough list of answers to commonly asked questions! Please feel free to comment or email us if you’d like to learn more!
Click on any of the questions below for a quick answer, or scroll through!
What is Plastic Oceans Canada about?
An end to plastic pollution.
Inform, inspire, and incite action to solve plastic pollution.
Change consumer behavior, corporate and public policy, and foster solutions to end plastic pollution.
What is Plastic Oceans Canada doing?
Our long term goal starts now. We are currently fundraising and exploring opportunities to execute cleaning Canada’s three coasts. Canada has the largest coastline in the world at 243,042 km. All of the waste plastic extracted from our remote and uninhabited shorelines will be processed to end of life alternative fuels and second life products to offset the expense and footprint required to perform this ambitious endeavor.
This project will begin with one pilot per coast and a viability test of processing all waste collected.
Stay tuned as we progress…
What is plastic made of?
Different types of plastics are produced by combining oil with chemical ingredients.
When was plastic created?
Plastic has been around longer than we might realize. Malaysia and Brazil produced the first plastics, known as caoutchouc.
Modern plastic was invented in approximately 1830 to form ebonite, fountain pen holders, piano keys, tobacco pipes, and telephone components. Since the 1950s, plastic production has increased exponentially, reaching 322 million tons as of 2015.
Are there different kinds of plastic?
There are many types of plastic. They differ in elasticity, thickness, size, and purpose of use. Most of the plastics that we use daily have the triangular recycle label on the bottom, which describes the type of plastic it is.
PE – Polyethylene: used for supermarket bags and plastic bottles
PET – Polyethylene Terephthalate: used for pop bottles, peanut butter jars, plastic film, and microwavable packaging
HDPE – High-Density Polyethylene: used for detergent bottles, milk jugs, and molded plastic cases
PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride: used for plumbing pipes, guttering, electrical wire/cable insulation, shower curtains, window frames, and flooring
LDPE – Low Density Polyethylene: used for floor tiles, shower curtains, and clamshell packaging
PP – Polypropylene: used for bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt containers, appliances, rope, and synthetics carpets
PS – Polystyrene: used for packing peanuts, food containers, plastic tableware, disposable cups, plates, cutlery, and CD/cassette cases
HIPS – High Impact Polystyrene: used for fridge liners, food packaging, and drinking cups
PU/PUR – Polyurethane: used for footwear, synthetic leather, bags, coating, automotive applications, foam, and electrical/electronic applications
PA – Polyamides: fibres used for toothbrush bristles, tubing, fishing line, and low-strength machine parts
And many more.
How does plastic enter our water?
Wind is responsible for 80 per cent of the plastic pollution in our oceans.
Discarded waste becomes susceptible to wind when people leave their garbage outside. This is made possible by curbside garbage and recycling collection, a lack of waste management infrastructure, and littering.
Is there plastic in the water that we drink?
Yes, plastic is found in groundwater, surface water, tap water, and bottled water. And not only there — we are exposed to microplastic and its toxins through inhalation, ingestion, and by skin contact.
How is plastic bad for the environment?
Most of our plastic waste ends up in landfills and eventually in our oceans where it harms marine life.
Many marine animals cannot recognize the difference between plastic and their food. An animal may eat plastic, which then fills their stomach and makes future digestion impossible. The animal will likely die from starvation in these cases. Many animals also become entangled in plastic waste, such as shopping bags or discarded fishing nets. Unable to free themselves from the plastic, animals often suffocate. Through these processes and more, plastic pollution endangers wildlife as well as the ocean’s food chain.
We also know plastic contains various toxic substances that are suspected of being carcinogenic. These toxic substances enter our bodies through the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
Substances such as bisphenol A (BPA) and certain phthalates — which are used as plasticizers in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) — have already raised concerns about the risk of adverse effects on human health and the environment.
Are other animals, besides marine animals, impacted?
Yes, plastic pollution endangers the lives of many animals, though marine life is especially at risk. On its journey to the ocean, plastic enters many ecosystems, and thus can harm many animals.
How much of our plastic gets recycled?
Worldwide, just nine per cent of our plastic waste is recycled. Unfortunately, the rest ends up in landfills where it will last for at least a thousand years.
The recycling process breaks down plastics and the molecular structure becomes increasingly unstable each time. As a result, companies are more likely to use virgin plastic, knowing that it is stronger than recycled plastic. Luckily, as this issue has been gaining more attention in the media, more companies are switching to recycled plastic alternatives.
How many times can plastic be recycled?
Most plastics can only be recycled once or twice before the material is downcycled due to a weak structure.
What does downcycled mean?
Downcycling is the process in which a product can no longer be used in the same way and has to be turned into something else. For example, a plastic bottle that has already been recycled once and is too weak to be used as a bottle again can be turned into carpet fibres.
Which plastics are recyclable?
This answer depends on where you live. Waste management systems differ from one town to the next. Search your local waste management website to learn which plastics are accepted. These websites also provide tips on preparing and sorting your recycling if you receive curbside pickup.
View the Vancouver waste management website for an example.
Is bioplastic a good alternative to plastic?
Bioplastic has become more common in the last couple of years. Though this sounds like a promising product, bioplastic is still a relatively new solution with many unknowns that must be considered.
First, we don’t really know what bioplastic is. And second, most of our recycling systems won’t accept these “biodegradable” or “compostable” bioplastics. Vancouver, for example, does not have the infrastructure in place to manage bioplastic. Similarly, many waste management facilities do not process these alternative plastics because it is too expensive. As a consequence, bioplastic ends up in landfills or worse, in our oceans.
How long does plastic last in our environment?
Plastic does not biodegrade, but rather the molecular chains break into small pieces (photodegradation), resulting in micro and nanoplastics. These plastic fragments are so small that they become intertwined with the most complicated aspects of our environment, from plankton to precipitation systems. Plastic can take thousands of years to break down in the environment; see the chart below.
What are the most common litter items in Canada (2019*)?
- Cigarette butts – 686,055
- Tiny plastic or foam – 595,277
- Food wrappers – 74,244
- Bottle caps – 51,992
- Paper materials – 63,371
- Plastic bags – 31,164
- Beverage cans – 28,192
- Plastic bottles – 26,212
- Straws – 26,157
Can we live without plastic?
Yes, we can. Plastic has only existed in the form that we use today for 150 years. Before this, we used materials that are more likely to be recycled and reused, such as glass, metal, wood, cloth, and more.
In some cases, such as in medical and technological industries, we can’t return to these old ways. But we can radically reduce our plastic consumption by making changes in our own lives and by calling on organizations to do the same.
Nonetheless, we must continue to research new materials and alternatives to plastic that are better for us and the environment.
How can we stop plastic pollution?
We have to understand the impact of our own consumer behaviours with regards to plastic consumption. If we continue to fuel demand by purchasing products that are packaged in or made of plastic, we support the market for these products. Consumer demand has already created shifts in the market from plastic to more sustainable alternatives, such as paper straws and bamboo toothbrushes. By continuing to demand plastic-free alternatives, we will create a new market that is less reliant on plastic and generates less waste.
But what are we doing about the plastic pollution that’s already here? At Plastic Oceans Canada, we host many beach cleanups, help youth make conscious choices through plastic consumption education, and work with researchers to solve the problem of ocean plastics.
Summary: What can you do?
Change of behaviour:
We need to change our behaviour. As soon as the demand for plastic products decreases, companies will change their production habits to match. We can already see this happening with many companies finding new ways to manufacture products without using plastic.
Know the Problem:
You can increase awareness at home and in your classroom. We offer free resources on our website to lead presentations that teach youth about plastic pollution and how to change their own behaviour. Other educational opportunities are available upon request. See if your university or college will support our organization visiting your school and leading a professional workshop!
Learn about plastic pollution and share your knowledge with family and friends. Through learning and inspiring the important people in your life, you will become a positive example for others.
Consider rethinking the ways that you use and interact with plastic by following these four Rs:
- REFUSE: Single-use plastics end up in our oceans, so ask for reusable alternatives or bring your own.
- REDUCE: Eliminate the amount of plastic products you use, whenever possible.
- REUSE: If you can’t use an alternative to plastic, try to reuse plastic products and dispose of them properly.
- RECYCLE: Familiarize yourself with local recycling policies to ensure your plastic waste has a better chance of being recycled. When possible, only purchase plastic products that can be recycled.
- Shop secondhand
- Carry your own reusable cup, mug, and water bottle
- Cook at home instead of ordering takeout
- Bring your reusable bags when shopping
Avoiding plastic will help save our oceans AND save you lots of money.
Volunteer with us:
You can sign up to volunteer with us and be part of the change. Email Plastic Oceans Canada at [email protected] to learn more about volunteer opportunities near you.
For any further information
Please check out our free resources to learn more about plastic pollution through statistics, research papers, and advice for your own life.
Ransford, Matt. “Why Trashing the Oceans is More Dangerous Than We Imagined.” Popular Science. April 1, 2008.(Nov.22,2010) http://www.popsci.com/environment/article/2008-04/why-trashing-oceans-more-dangerous-we-imagined
What is Downcycling? https://www.oberk.com/packaging-crash-course/downcycling-temp