Plastic, Plastic Everywhere

The planet is drowning in the most useful material ever invented. So what are we going to do about it?

The world produces four hundred million tons of plastic annually, nearly half of which is considered single-use. Each year, more than eight million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean. That’s a rate of almost fifteen tons every minute. Some of this non-biodegradable flotsam washes up on beaches. It fouls habitats and mars scenery. It becomes accidental food for seabirds and sea turtles. In the water, it agglomerates into giant fields of debris, the largest of which, swirling between California and Hawaii, is twice the size of Texas.

“Overall, plastics are among the most useful materials invented by humankind,” says Nickolas Themelis, founder of Columbia’s Earth Engineering Center and a leading expert on waste management. “But they’ve gotten a bad name, because we have not yet found a way for them to be used well at the end of their life.”

Learn more about the mission of Agustina Besada, an entrepreneur on an oceanic adventure to explore the misuse of plastic and her business startup Unplastify, aimed at helping schools, companies, and governments assess their relationship to plastic and reduce their dependence on it.

Read the Columbia Magazine article here.


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