The debate about plastics’ place in our world rages on. Many people now recognise the damaging impact that plastic has on our environment. Plastic is usually manufactured from oil, which is a finite fossil fuel. From a product design and engineering perspective, plastic is an amazing material with very useful properties, and it has really enabled modern life as we know it, but at what cost?

What is The Cost of Plastic to The Planet?

Recent research has discovered that there are around 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in our oceans, this is broken down to around 269,000 tons that floats and 4 billion microfibers per km² that are below the surface. We know that around 70% of our debris sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15% floats, and 15% lands on our beaches. 

The scale of the problem is extreme and increasingly getting worse. The United Nations have released data stating that over 8 million tons of plastic are discarded in our oceans on a yearly basis. 

The Natural History Museum has taken a look at how much plastic is in our oceans and the impact it has. Plastic enters the oceans as both large identifiable items such as bottles, and as microplastics. Microplastics are pieces under 5mm in size. However, both types pose a huge threat to marine life, as despite the large items being broken down into microplastics they never fully disappear.

Has Continuous Warning Made a Difference?

In recent years Sir David Attenborough has issued us with several stark warnings regarding plastic pollution. The recent BBC show Blue Planet II shows us first hand just how real these issues are, and the devastating impacts plastic has on both our planet, our animals and even people around the world. The series shows how huge scales of plastic are drifting into the world’s oceans and causing the deaths of one million birds and 100,000 sea mammals each year. In one of the most distressing scenes, we watched as albatrosses were seen feeding their chicks a diet of plastic which would doom them to die.

Despite the shocking scenes and huge volumes of plastic still making its way into our oceans, Sir David Attenborough says we are “changing habits” and “shifting our behaviour” when it comes to plastic. In a recent BBC interview, he said, “the world is waking up to what we’ve done to the planet” and went on to explain that plastic is “vile” and “horrid”. 

However, when developing new products, not all plastics are bad and there is a growing awareness of the kind of damage certain types of plastics can do, from key educational messages thanks to the likes of Sir David and other key bodies.

4D Products Combining with Tide

With sustainability heavily influencing product design now more than ever, as part of our ongoing commitment to challenge what is possible and aim to improve our own environmental contributions as much as possible, we recently specified the use of #Tide Ocean recycled plastic in one of the products we are currently developing. (We can’t go into too much detail yet but keep an eye out on our news section for an update soon!)

Tide upcycle ocean-bound plastic waste and transform it into a premium raw material which brands use for their new sustainable products, giving plastic waste a value.

“It starts with the fisherman collecting plastic on an island and ends with the brands using our sustainable material. By closing the circle of plastic production, we – and our partners – contribute to cleaner oceans, to a circular economy and therefore reduce the use of non-renewable fossil resources.” – #Tide Ocean

#Tide are dedicated to working with a global network of collectors, recyclers, and manufacturers to offer a wide selection of guaranteed materials at your fingertips. Their network processes 100s of tons of recycled plastic annually and includes a range of sources, from ocean to averted and beyond. 

This is just one example of a company and group of companies that have recognised the scale of the problem caused by plastic. #Tide makes it possible for environmentally conscious businesses like 4D Products to explore other options for environmentally friendly materials when developing new products

Here at 4D Products we are committed to helping clients identify new possibilities to improve environmental performance and work to reduce the impact they have on our planet and oceans.