5 Sept 2019 - The lowly cucumber remains crisp for three days at your local market. Wrap it in polyethylene shrink wrap and its longevity extends to 14. That, in short, explains the rapid growth of plastic food packaging, projected to become a $370 billion market next year.
With those numbers, it comes as little surprise that the way humans buy and consume food is having such a tangible impact on the oceans. Nine of the Ocean Conservancy’s top ten items retrieved from its annual beach cleanups are related to food and drink. Food packaging remains the second most common trash item collected during the group’s annual beach cleanup in 2018. And now for the first time, plastic forks, knives, and spoons have made the list, according to the group’s new report.
Aside from food packaging—more than 3.7 million individual wrappers were collected—the list of disposable plastics includes straws, stirrers, cutlery, bottles and caps, grocery bags and other plastic bags (for food and other uses), lids, cups, and plates.
The exception is cigarette butts, which contain plastic filters, and has remained the No. 1 item for many years.
“Cigarette butts are a separate issue and they win the race every year,” says George Leonard, the Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist.