I have coined a new form of ecocide: Plasticide – murder by plastic
This morning I found something lying on the beach that sent shivers down my spine. Walking along the high tide line, I noticed a piece of plastic with unfamiliar writing on it. I was shocked to see what turns out to be Jawi script – the writing system used for the Malay language. Looking closer, to my utter amazement, I discovered this was a one kilogram bag of pre-fried and quick frozen French Fries. But real fright washed over me after I read what was on the back. This bag was from Brunei. And the French fries had been produced and packaged in Belgium on MARCH 26, 2021 – SIXTEEN DAYS AGO!!!
Someone had imported a kilogram of French fries, which were packaged on March 26 in Belgium. The bag must have been flown to Brunei Darussalam. Someone bought and ate the bag of fries. The package somehow ended up in the Pacific Ocean. The bag floated through the South and East China Seas and perhaps the Philippine Sea. The bag must have been carried into the Kuroshio Current past Japan and out into the North Pacific Current. This 25cm by 35cm (10 in. by 14in.) plastic sail scooted past both the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. Overall, this piece of trash traveled over 12,000 kilometers (7,450 miles) across the Pacific Ocean in a matter of days. That doesn’t include the 11-12,000 kilometers by air to get from Belgium. In other words, this bag went from imported food to trash and traveled more than half way around the world in two weeks.
The sheer scale of globalization presented by this litter scared the living crap out of me. That is when I thought of the word – plasticide – murder by plastic. I pondered it for hours now. Did you know that Belgium is the world’s largest exporter of frozen potatoes? Over five million tons in 2018. The processed potato business is worth over two billion dollars. Apparently the growing middle class in Asia has increased demand for Belgian potato products. And the short time it took for that one kilogram bag of fried potato product to become trash is terrifying. I worried over this new form of ecocide – plasticide – all morning.
Every single day our earth is ravaged by hundreds of types pollution. But plastic pollution is a global concern. Nearly half the plastic that washes up on the world’s beaches comes from discarded fishing gear. I gather up as much as I can. I’m still trying to figure out a way to turn it into art. I try to remove plastic as I find it, because since moving to the coast, I have discovered a deep kinship with the ocean. And the discovery of this square foot of terror has upset me more than any other single bit of plastic pollution I have found.
I suppose the most disturbing element of this story is the lightning swift speed the imported French fries went from table to trash on my beach. But we cannot give up the fight. It is strange how much this has freaked me out. But a few dozen paces away I found something less shocking. As I wandered along knocking the sand off the french fries bag, I found a dollar. I hope it is a sign of a more positive future ahead.