Plastic Waste in Australia and the recycling greenwash

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

by Lilia Anderson, Nina Gbor

Somewhere in the remote North Pacific Ocean sits the largest accumulation of plastic waste in the world. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it has come to be known, spans 1.6 million square kilometres. It is twice the size of Texas, three times the size of France, and 17 times the size of Tasmania. There are four other areas of the world’s oceans where our plastic waste accumulates, including in the South Pacific. They might be smaller in comparison to the one in the North Pacific, but each one is enormous in its own right. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of an estimated total of 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic waste. This is equivalent to 250 pieces of plastic for every human on the planet. One study found that between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic waste generated on land entered the ocean in 2010, and estimated that this would increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. It is now thought that, by weight, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

Globally, 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems and ends up in the environment. Plastic can be found even in the deepest parts of the ocean, where it represents up to 80% of marine litter, often in the form of microplastics. This has a very serious adverse impact on marine life and exacerbates other stresses on ocean health. Plastic pollution kills an estimated one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals eachyear. While some ocean plastic originates from the sea-based shipping and fisheries industries, most of it comes from land-based sources and is transported via rivers. Once in the ocean, microplastics can act as vectors for toxic chemicals to enter the ecosystem through marine life. For the nearly one million volunteers for Clean Up Australia Day, the impact of plastic waste on the environment is clear. Of all rubbish collected in 2022, 63% was plastic waste, which was up 17% from the previous year. The newer items picked up by volunteers — face masks, vapes and RAT tests — reflect how our use of plastic has increased, but the older items — soft plastics, beverage bottles, coffee cups, takeaway food containers, and single-use cutlery and plates — remind us of how persistent plastics waste is.

When plastic degrades, it dissolves into imperceptible smaller fragments called microplastics, which filter into the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Microplastics have been found in 94% of oysters globally, and in the gastrointestinal tracts of 62% of fish in Australia. A study of microplastics in the Great Australian Bight concluded that about 14 million tonnes of microplastics reside on the ocean floor. There are serious questions about the effect our heavy use of plastics is having on our health. Plastics have been linked to diseases ranging from cancer to lung disease, birth defects and endocrine toxicity. From extraction through to manufacturing, use and disposal, plastic impacts our health. Plastics have been termed a “cocktail of contaminants”, due to the fact that they are commonly found along with heavy metals, pesticides and other organic pollutants, as well as a range of other chemicals that are designed to give them colour, flexibility, stability and resistance to UV light. Many of these additives and contaminants are carcinogenic or neurotoxic, or associated with diseases like obesity and diabetes. An estimated 400,000 to 1 million people die each year from diseases related to mismanaged waste including plastic, primarily in the global South. Conservative estimates show that humans ingest between 0.1 grams and 5 grams – which is equivalent to an entire credit card’s wroth – of microplastics every week. Plastic has now even been found in the placentas of newborn babies, as well as in human blood and tissues; a fact that has led to many calling this era of human history ‘The Plasticene'

Read More: Plastic Waste in Australia and the recycling greenwash

Answering Annihilation: Some Notes on Earth’s Execution

Nuclear fire

by Dan Fischer

Half of all wild animals on Earth have been wiped out. You may have missed the news. It came from a scientific study mentioned on page 5 of last Wednesday’s New York Times. You had to flip past the usual stories of Trump regime scandals, four jewelry advertisements, and an ode to a slain officer from the New York Police Department.

“’Biological Annihilation’ Said to Be Underway.” The article took up only as much space as a Sootheby’s ad on the same page announcing jewelry sales in New York City.

While “biological annihilation” sounds like an evil plot thought up by a Bond villain, the term actually comes from a peer-reviewed study in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The authors Gerardo Ceballos, Paul Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo use it to describe the ongoing destruction of local populations within different species.

Due to the pressures of habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, species are going extinct at 100 times the rate they normally would. The PNAS study shows that populations within species are disappearing much, much faster.

Billions of Genocides.... Read More: Answering Annihilation: Some Notes on Earth’s Execution

McWhoppers Not Bombs?

McDonald’s Guantanamo

by Dan Fischer

Peace has never been less appetizing. In a full-page advertisement last month, Burger King proposed that for the International Day of Peace on September 21, they and McDonald’s put aside their rivalry and open a temporary restaurant selling the “McWhopper”, a blend of their signature burgers the Big Mac and the Whopper. Proceeds would go toward promoting the annual Day of Peace.

Read More: McWhoppers Not Bombs?

Confronting the Root Causes of Climate Change

Confronting climate change’s root causes, Capitalism vs. the Climate organizes non-hierarchically and takes direct action in solidarity with communities most impacted by the climate crisis. We’re members of Rising Tide North America. We started in 2012 in CT, a group of people angry that society is rushing headlong off the carbon cliff. We see modern capitalism as forcing us to rip up the earth and burn all its fossil fuels. Countless livelihoods and and lives are at stake. Green tinkering won’t cut it. We need fundamental democratization of our energy and our society.

Capitalism presents each business with a choice to either grow or die. As a result, the system has no choice but to perpetually produce waste, pollution, and oppression. Unable to solve the climate crisis it started, the capitalist system can only offer insulting "solutions" like fracking and geoengineering that just make things even worse.
We cannot wait any longer for multinational corporations, politicians and Big Green NGOs to take care of us. That's why we take direct action: the strategic use of immediately effective acts to achieve a political or social end and challenge an unjust power dynamic.
When communities have control over their own economy and culture, then they are able to implement ecologically sound agriculture and energy. We organize without hierarchy, in order to "prefigure" the ecological society we're trying to build.

"Either we will create an ecotopia based on ecological principles, or we will simply go under as a species."

Murray Bookchin