There isn’t an adult person alive who isn’t acutely aware of the tragic situation we have created and continue to create on a daily, even hourly, basis. We mine and harvest more than the earth can sustain, we refine and create more than we require, we consume only a small amount of what we produce, we use new technologies for far shorter than their potential life expectancies, and we carelessly discard virtually everything for which we no longer wish to spare a thought. Every day, in every corner of the world, waste is accumulating–not only in those places we have designated as ‘waste collection areas’, but in rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, forests, underground, atop peaks like Everest, and even in low-earth orbit. The problem is, of course, much worse in developed countries, where people can afford to be less considerate of what they discard, but it is endemic to the earth. It is to be found everywhere there are humans.
And of all the waste we create, in terms of harm to the environment and outlook for the future, plastic reigns supreme. As we move forward into the future, there will doubtless be a place for highly complex materials, plastic among them, but our current practice of wrapping everything we produce–food, technology, and even water–in single-use plastic is one that will be regarded in sheer disbelief by future generations. Hopefully, we are soon able to shake ourselves free of it.
As the graphic below (created by Our World In Data) makes clear, we still have a long way to go, and there is much of which we should currently be ashamed.