Curse or blessing?

The practical problem child

How plastic is threatening our planet.

  • Our grandparents would have been thrilled to be able to buy milk in lightweight plastic bottles instead of having to carry home heavy glass bottles of milk. Today we would be lucky if plastic would never have been invented. That's because the unending plastic flood has become a major problem.

    But why is that? As practical as plastic is - such as in the form of a plastic bag - it refuses to disappear! Because plastic does not decay. It only breaks down into smaller and smaller particles called microplastics. The scary truth is that every year we dump an unbelievable 32 million metric tons of plastic into the environment worldwide. Plastic which, as in the case of the plastic bag, is used on average once for 25 minutes and never disappears after it has been thrown away. Researchers fear that there will be more plastic than fish in Earth's oceans by 2050.

    Those who think, "So what if plastic breaks down into microscopically small particles in 500 years? Then it will be as good as gone." should not be surprised if a doctor diagnoses them with micro­plastics in the lungs or the intestines one day. But let's start at the beginning.

What's so special about plastics that makes it so dangerous?

  • We purchase one million plastic bottles every minute worldwide. We throw away 320,000 coffee cups every hour in Germany alone. The fast food container, the plastic bag, the practical shoe padding used to package shoes – every single piece that we carelessly throw away will never disappear, but will merely be broken down into smaller and smaller particles. A lot of these particles will wind up in the oceans. Even now there are several gigantic plastic garbage patches floating around the planet's oceans, the largest of which is located to the west of California in the Pacific Ocean and is the size of Central Europe. Read more about this in our article about the marine litter collecting ship Seekuh.

    Find out more

How plastic is ruining our groundwater

  • Due to its molecular structure, microplastic is like a sponge for hazardous toxins. Dangerous seepage water from plastic waste occurs everywhere in the planet's tens of thousands of landfills. These poisonous chemicals end up unimpeded in the groundwater, and from there get back into our food chain. The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office of the Münsterland-Emscher-Lippe region examined various brands of mineral water at the start of 2018 and found that all samples were tainted with microplastics. The study shows how directly the problem affects each one of us.

Will plastic ultimately wind up on our plates?

  • We consume large quantities of microplastics, but not just through water. Animals often mistake plastic and microplastic for plankton and other food, with catastrophic results: Every year an estimated 1,000,000 marine birds and 100,000 marine mammals starve to death with a full stomach – full not of food but of plastic. But even if the animals don't suffer a painful death, microplastic still collects inside of fish, which ends up on our plates and which we eat with pleasure, with dangerous consequences to our health.

Is plastic making us sick?

  • We consume microplastics not only through our drinking water and our food but also through the air we breathe, numerous personal care products, clothing and lots more. And we're ingesting an increasing amount of microplastics. Various studies have shown that the blood of 90% of people living in industrialized nations is chronically contaminated with plastic. The toxic substance bisphenol A (BPA) in particular was found in almost every blood and urine sample, says Dieter Swandulla, Institute Director of the Physiology 2 Department at the University of Bonn. The substance is a synthetic hormone and is particularly harmful to the health. Initial studies suggest that microplastics can lead to cancer, obesity and infertility.

The "Stop Wasting – Start Caring!" initiative“

"Stop Wasting – Start Caring!" CEO Tim Höttges calls on all Deutsche Telekom employees to avoid plastic, packaging and scrap metal.

What's your opinion? Should plastic bags be forbidden completely?
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