A couple of days ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook a Telegraph article celebrating the ban of plastic water bottles along her favorite stretch of Italian coastline: Cinque Terre. Apparently 3 million (3 x 10+06) tourists have left an average of 2 million (2 x 10+06) bottles a year on these beaches–with 400,000 (4 x 10+05) bottles abandoned in August alone on this relatively tiny stretch–10 (10+01) kilometers–of UNESCO World Heritage coast.
As a comparison, in the U.S., in 1997, 4 billion (4 x 10+09) plastic bottles were manufactured; and in 2005, 26 billion (2.6 x 10+10) with only about 3 billion (3 x 10+09) being recycled. Furthermore, the making of these bottles required 15 million (1.5 x 10+07) barrels of oil annually (enough to fuel 100,000 (10+05) cars a year).
The tail end of the Telegraph article referred to the millions of tons of plastic that have been carried by 4 major currents to the North Pacific Gyre–now a swirling mass of plastic whose size is the equivalent to Texas–where Albatross chicks die because their parents mistake bottle caps for food. Charles Moore discusses this, and much more, in his TED talk:
An amazing factoid reported by Discover magazine: plastic bottles afloat in a marine environment degrade in about 450 (4.5 x 10+02) years!
Hat tips to the Telegraph, CRI–Container Recycling Institute, Charles Moore’s TED talk, and Discover magazine (October 2009 issue) with its iStockphoto.