By now most people have already heard the long spiel about how “plastic is harmful” or to boycott plastic straws to save the turtles. However, when we ask people to tell us why plastic has such a bad rep, they often shrug and say they aren’t too sure. Yes, we all have a general understanding of how plastics can end up in landfills and why that’s obviously not a good thing for the environment, but there’s more to it than that.
For instance, did you know that only about 35% of the “recycling” we produce per year actually gets recycled? Even if you’re very careful about always separating the waste in your household into the correct bins, oftentimes they still end up in the landfills in the end! Why is that? What can we do to change this? Well, here at Soco Sands, we’re already taking steps towards trying to lessen our own impact and hopefully, after reading this blog, you’ll want to take those steps with us.
So settle in and get ready to be shocked, as we take a deep dive into the real and lasting impacts plastics can have on our environment!
How long does it take plastic to decompose?
Without human intervention, plastic products can take hundreds to thousands of years to break down! Even then, things like plastic bags often don’t decompose the way we think as they don’t return to the earth or give anything back. In fact, if anything, they just end up toxifying their surroundings by releasing harmful chemicals or becoming bits of microplastic that end up floating aimlessly in the air or mixed into the earth.
The short of the story is that while plastic does eventually break down, it takes far longer than most people would think it should and in the process, it pollutes their surroundings. For instance, a single shoe could take anywhere from 30 - 40 years to decompose in a landfill normally. However, some shoes with modifications to things such as the leather or rubber components could end up taking upwards of 50 - 80 years!
Now compared to plastics, that doesn’t seem so bad, until you realize that about 20 billion pairs of shoes are produced every year and nearly 300 million of those shoes end up in landfills at the end of those years too! Think about that the next time you debate throwing away your shoes.
Why does so much plastic end up in landfills?
I’m sure many people would blame laziness when it comes to sorting through your garbage; but that’s only partially responsible for the amount of plastic in landfills. Like we mentioned in the beginning of this blog, only 35% of our recycling ends up being recycled, the rest usually gets sent to landfills.
Why does this happen you may be wondering, well to put it simple, it’s just easier. Some things prove to be more difficult to properly recycle them; and at the end of the day, even recycling companies are looking to make a profit sometimes. So they take the easier things to recycle, and often shoo away bits and scraps that are more trouble than they’re worth.
Even when a recycling company is willing to go the extra mile, there’s only so much they can recycle in a single plant. It takes time to break things down and with the sheer amount of waste we produce through consumerism and fast fashion, it’s increasingly difficult for these recycling plants to keep up with us. Remember when we said about 20 billion shoes are produced every year? Well, that’s only one type of product, now multiply that with simply what you’re wearing right now. Depending on the article of clothing, there’s probably a larger number than that of shoes being produced every year; and our planet only has just over 7 billion people on it. So why are we making so much?
Buy buy buy mentality
Unfortunately somewhere along the way of human development, we’ve also adopted the consumerist mentality. At some point, just having stuff to live a decent life, cloth ourselves and provide for our families wasn’t enough. We want more, we don’t necessarily need it to live, but we want it.
Therefore we end up buying more things even though in the back of our minds we know we may never get around to using or wearing them. Open your closet right now and see if there’s anything in there that you can’t remember actually wearing. We’re in such a rush to get things while they’re on sale or while we still can, that we often forget to think about whether or not we’ll actually even use it!
What you can do
If you want to help, even a little, maybe put that next shirt or shoe back on the shelf. Look to buy things of higher quality that will last longer, rather than those one off buys which you wear once and throw away. By simply doing this, you won’t be contributing as much waste to the cycle of fast fashion! As more people do this and there’s less demand for the products of fast fashion; it will no longer be profitable for those companies to continue engaging in those activities.
While these may seem like baby steps in the large scheme of things, it’s a start and something we desperately need! Right now we’re fast approaching the point of no return and if no one stands up we may just launch ourselves right over it. So join us! Help us make better decisions and think twice before you pick up that next plastic product.
Feeling inspired? Looking to start fresh with products that will last? Check out our collection of shoes that are both made to last and created with recycled and eco-friendly materials today! Click Here to shop now!