Teapigs and supermarkets team up to launch ‘Plastic Free’ consumer label

UK supermarket chain Iceland already made waves when it promised to go plastic-free by 2023. Now it’s teaming up with plastics campaigners A Plastic Planet, Dutch grocery store chain Ekoplaza—of plastic-free aisle fame—and tea brand Teapigs to launch a plastic-free consumer label.

It’s a pretty important move.

While many of us have taken steps to skip the straw and refill our water bottles, avoiding plastic in the grocery store can be a whole lot trickier. Even when you buy an item in a cardboard package, for example, it’s not unusual to get it home, open it and discover there’s another layer of clear plastic packaging on the inside.

Products carrying the Plastic Free Trust Mark will include materials such as carton board, wood pulp, glass, metal and certified-compostable biomaterials. Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland explained why the time has come for such a label:

“Now we all know the damage our addiction to plastic has caused, we want to do the right thing and buy plastic-free. But it is harder than you think and a clear no-nonsense label is much needed. Our Trust Mark cuts through the confusion of symbols and labels and tells you just one thing – this packaging is plastic-free and therefore guilt-free. Finally shoppers can be part of the solution not the problem.”

Meanwhile, according to Business Green, Iceland’s Managing Director Richard Walker used the occasion to put some not-so-subtle pressure on his peers in the retail industry:

“With the grocery retail sector accounting for more than 40 per cent of plastic packaging in the UK, it’s high time that Britain’s supermarkets came together to take a lead on this issue. I’m proud to lead a supermarket that is working with A Plastic Planet to realise a plastic-free future for food and drink retail.”

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/teapigs-and-supermarkets-team-launch-plastic-free-consumer-label.html

Using less plastic leads to fewer harmful chemicals in the body

A tiny pilot study has shown that women who reduce their exposure to plastic see a decrease in estrogen-mimicking chemicals in their bodies within a month.

Plastic is usually considered to be a problem because of the non-recyclable waste it creates, but it also needs to be viewed as a significant health hazard. Many plastics contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals that can enter a person’s body through food packaging, receipts, and more, and there is strong evidence linking these chemicals to breast cancer.

Now, a tiny yet interesting pilot study called ReThink Plastic has found that taking steps to minimize exposure to plastic can reduce the number of these chemicals found in a woman’s bloodstream within a fairly short time frame. The study was conducted jointly by Child Health and Development Studies and the Plastic Pollution Coalition, and funded by California’s Breast Cancer Research Fund. It had two parts — first, a total number of 93 participants who would be educated about the effects of plastic and spread that message to others; and second, a sub-group of 20 participants willing to have bloodwork taken before and after the study period to reflect these lifestyle changes.

The one-month study began with an initial education session about sources of plastic contamination and preliminary blood tests. Participants were asked to change their lifestyle habits for one month, following these guidelines:

– Use glass or stainless steel water bottles.
– Never microwave food in plastic containers.
– Store food in glass or ceramic containers.
– Skip canned foods and beverages.
– Reduce take-out food.
– Don’t handle receipts with bare hands. (If you do, wash with soap and water as soon as possible and DO NOT use hand sanitizer).

Participants were also asked to spread the message among friends and family, taking on the educator role. Fifty-seven of the original group managed to reach an estimated 539 individuals with their message of plastic avoidance.

After the month, the participants who had agreed to have blood drawn were tested. Of the 19 women who did it, 13 showed a reduction in estrogenic activity (68 percent). From the study:

“We were unable to link this decrease in estrogen activity to any particular behavior change — all of the 19 had desired behavior change. Age and race were also not related. However, we did see different patterns of estrogen activity change according to participants’ body mass index (BMI). By examining estrogen activity change in BMI groups (normal and overweight), we learned that the six participants who experienced no reduction in estrogen activity were all among the overweight group. Further, the overweight group encompassed participants with both increased and decreased estrogen activity, while the normal BMI group included only participants with decreased estrogen activity.”

The researchers came away with three important realizations — that (1) changing one’s interactions with plastic is successful at reducing exposure to harmful chemicals in plastic, (b) participants were successful at getting the message out to their communities, and (3) people are willing to provide blood samples and participate in screenings that could be very helpful.

For the ReThink Plastic team, this is just the beginning. They have applied for a 3-year grant to be able to conduct a much bigger and more comprehensive study. In the meantime, the pilot study is a good reminder to all of us that reducing plastic use is as much about saving the environment as it is about preserving our own health.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/health/less-plastic-life-means-fewer-harmful-chemicals-body.html

Europe: Plastic Trash Piling Up, China No Longer Wants It






Europe: Plastic Trash Piling Up, China No Longer Wants It


May 11th, 2018

Via: Reuters:

Europe has sent just over half the plastic waste it used to ship to China to other parts of Asia since Beijing’s environmental crackdown closed the world’s biggest recycling market in January. The knotty problem is what to do with the rest.

In an overcrowded continent where landfills are much more restricted than elsewhere, burning is the obvious option to help generate electricity or heat from hundreds of thousands of tonnes of surplus waste.

But more radical ideas, such as putting oil derived plastic back underground to “mine� back when recycling becomes more sophisticated, are being aired as Europe tries to work out what to do.















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How many LEGO skyscrapers could be built from a year’s worth of ocean plastic?

TIME crunches the numbers to determine how many life-size skyscrapers could be built with ocean plastic turned into LEGO bricks.

OK first things first, this little experiment does not imply that there are skyscrapers’ worth of LEGO bits in the ocean, because who throws away LEGOs? (Yes, sometimes they get shipwrecked, but that’s another story.) However, LEGOs or not, the oceans are becoming increasingly chock-full of plastic.

Research published this year reveals that a mere 9 percent of plastics are currently recycled; meanwhile, plastic use is expected to double in the next 20 years as “as manufacturers find new and varied uses for the material, according to a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF),” writes TIME magazine. As Lloyd points out, the fossil fuel industry is sinking all kinds of money into new plastic-making facilities, promising that the poor beleageuered planet will continue choking on the eternal stuff into the foreseeable forever.

Most of us know by now the staggering amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans; but to hear that 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into our seas annually … well, what exactly does that look like?

So this is where TIME comes in, with a little (big) experiment, asking: “If all the plastic that winds up in the ocean over a single year was molded into LEGO bricks, how many life-size skyscrapers could you build with them?”

Figuring that the standard LEGO brick weighs 2.32 grams, that 8-million-tons of plastic-bonanza waste would create a mind-spinning 3.4 quadrillion such blocks. They then did a simulation and built a pretend full-scale replica of NYC’s Empire State Building with said imagined bricks.

The typical 2-by-4 block is 31.8 millimeters long by 15.8 millimeters wide and 9.6 millimeters tall. The way LEGOs stack together leaves a tiny amount of space between them, so this simulation treats the length as 32mm by 16mm. Our life-size LEGO Empire State Buildings have a volume of about 900,000 cubic meters, close to that of the real thing.

The final tally? NINETEEN life-size Empire State Buildings. If you’ve ever stood anywhere near this iconic skyscraper, you know how massive it is. It has a footprint of approximately two acres and is comprised of 102 stories; and we allow 19 times that amount of plastic – in teeny-tiny bits – to enter our oceans each year. It’s really pretty profound.

You can see the simulation over at TIME, it’s a very good visual … and a great reminder to curtail plastic use, especially single-use plastics and products containing microbeads (which basically go straight from sink and shower to sea).

See related stories below for more on plastic.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/how-many-skyscrapers-could-be-built-years-worth-ocean-plastic.html

Scientists Accidentally Discover Enzyme That Digests Plastic


By Fattima Mahdi Truth Theory

A serendipitous discovery by scientists at the University of Portsmouth may help in the future fight against plastic pollution.

The story began in Japan in 2016, when a team of researchers found that there was a bacteria present in bottle-trash sites that produced an enzyme that was efficient in “degrading and assimilating” PET, a type of plastic often used in bottles that persists in the environment for hundreds of years. Scientists dubbed the enzyme PETase and it became a foundation for future studies. Fast forward to 2018 and it appears that scientists have made a potential breakthrough, they discovered a mutant version of PETase that is even more efficient at degrading plastic than its natural counterpart. They were examining the structure of the enzyme and were trying to understand how it naturally evolved when they engineered an even better version. “Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” said McGeehan,director of the Institute of Biological and Biomedical Sciences in the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth. “Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” said Oliver Jones, a expert in analytical chemistry at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University. “There is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem by breaking down some of the most commonly used plastics.”

“We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these ‘wonder materials’ must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions.” McGeehan said. “It’s well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET, and potentially other (plastics), back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled,”

Though this discovery has a strong potential for minimising plastic pollution, independent scientists have warned that the enzyme’s development is in the early stages.

Image Featured/Credit: Pixabay

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Source Article from https://truththeory.com/2018/04/24/scientists-accidentally-discover-enzyme-that-digests-plastic/

The problems with Amsterdam’s plastic-free grocery aisle

The aisle relies heavily on biodegradable plastics, which have serious drawbacks.

Earlier this winter, a supermarket in Amsterdam called Ekoplaza made headlines for having the first-ever plastic-free aisle. At the time, I wrote enthusiastically, “The aisle features more than 700 food items, including meats, sauces, yogurts, cereals, and chocolate; and, as unbelievable as it sounds, there’s not a speck of plastic in sight — only cardboard, glass, metal, and compostable materials.”

My assessment was not entirely accurate, however, because there was plenty of plastic in sight; it just happened to be made of compostable materials, such as plant cellulose, wood pulp, algae, grass, cornstarch, shrimp shells, etc. It looks like plastic, but is considered different because it’s not not made entirely from fossil fuels and is biodegradable. Some background via The Plastic Planet, which has partnered with Ekoplaza to create the aisle:

“Unlike conventional plastics, which will exist for centuries on our planet, biomaterials are designed to be composted – either in your home compost or in industrial composting facilities. They should be put in the same bin as your food waste, not your plastic recycling bin. All the biomaterial packaging in Ekoplaza Lab is certified as OK Home Compostable or BS EN13432, the key standard for industrial composting across Europe and the UK.”

Ekoplaza store view© Ekoplaza (via Facebook)

Not everyone is impressed by these efforts. Australian zero waste blogger Lindsay Miles is outraged by a plastic free aisle that’s full of plastic lookalikes. She sees the biodegradable plastic solution as seriously lacking because there is so much it fails to address. In an excellent blog post on the topic, she lists the problems with Ekoplaza’s approach. I’ve shared some of her thoughts below and added a few of mine.

1. The language is confusing. A promo video refers to this biodegradable packaging as ‘disappearing’ within 12 weeks, but that is inaccurate: “That’s impossible science. Compost, degrade, dissolve, evaporate – call it what it is. Nothing disappears.” Even the products themselves are confusing; for example, did you know that cellulose tube netting, used to sell oranges and pretty much identical to regular plastic netting, will degrade in a home composter? It’s unlikely that the average shopper would know this, or even try it.

2. There is no resource reduction. A tremendous amount of material is still required to make these biodegradable plastics. Miles writes:

“Growing huge amounts of food (sugar, corn, tapioca) with the sole purpose of synthesizing it into packets so that food items can be neatly displayed with predetermined portions in perfect rows in the supermarket? The land, energy and carbon footprint of that is huge.”

One fact I was especially shocked to learn last year while reading “Life Without Plastic” (book) was that a so-called biodegradable bag only needs to contain 20 percent plant material in order to be labeled as such. The other 80 percent could be fossil fuel-based plastic resins and synthetic additives. This is considered ‘residue.’

3. Compostable is a slippery term. Many of the plant-based plastics in Ekoplaza are compostable in industrial facilities. These are not widely available, or even if they are, they might run for a cycle time that’s shorter than what is needed to compost a particular item.

4. Compostable plastics do not biodegrade in the ocean. Alarm over the ocean plastic problem has driven many of the efforts to go plastic-free and zero waste, and yet these so-called greener products act the same as conventional plastics in water. Miles writes:

“No compostable plastic to date has been shown to break down in the marine environment. As plastic packaging is lightweight, floats, blows in the wind and can be carried by animals, it ends up in the ocean.”

5. This packaging still generates harmful waste. No matter how a plastic bag has been made, it’s just as capable of suffocating an animal, damaging a seagull’s gut, snagging on a sea turtle. These products are impossible to contain, and unless they’re in a proper industrial composting facility, the potential for littering and harm to animals is still there.

I am sure Ekoplaza and its partner, A Plastic Planet, have good intentions, but their approach falls short of what is really needed. It’s too focused on maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging customers to adopt a radically different and more effective shopping model. I do understand the importance of convenience and how this is integral to people minimizing their planetary impact, but there comes a point where we’re going to have to question the way we do things and become used to the idea of taking refillable containers to the store.

There are far better models for plastic-free shopping. From outdoor markets to bulk stores to farm share boxes and more, plastic-free does exist, free from greenwashing. You just need to know where to look and be willing to put in a little more effort.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/problems-amsterdams-plastic-free-grocery-aisle.html

This is what a year’s worth of plastic looks like

Daniel Webb’s project is a profound reminder that “there is no away” when it comes to plastic trash.

Starting on 1 January 2017, Daniel Webb stashed every piece of plastic he bought or received in his spare room. After 365 days, the room was full and Webb’s experiment was complete; he now had a tangible record of what an average British guy’s plastic consumption for one year looks like.

Why would one want to do such a thing? Well, for starters, Webb seems like the kind of guy who tackles ambitious projects; the Guardian recounts that he once ran six half-marathons in six days. But mainly, the project happened because Webb felt deeply afflicted by the amount of plastic pollution in his coastal town of Margate, England. He describes walking along the beach:

“Old toys, probably 20 years old, bottles that must have been from overseas because they had all kinds of different languages on them, bread tags, which I don’t think had been used for years. It was very nostalgic, almost archaeological. And it made me think, as a mid-30s guy, is any of my plastic out there? Had I once dropped a toy in a stream near Wolverhampton, where I’m from, and now it was out in the sea?”

So, Webb decided to do a plastic collection experiment. Without changing his shopping habits at all (though he’d already given up plastic water bottles), he kept every piece of plastic in order to document a year’s worth of consumption. The total number came to 4,490. Sixty percent of that was food packaging and 93 percent was single-use plastic. Only eight items, mostly coffee cups, were made from biodegradable plastics.

salad bags© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

The project was carefully photographed by Ollie Harrop and named “Everyday Plastic.” The pictures reveal personal lifestyle habits; Webb clearly likes his chips and candy, but also went through plenty of cellophane bags for salad greens, broad beans, and netted bags of citrus. Then there are the familiar plastics that we all encounter on a daily basis, such as coffee cup lids, blister packs, toothpaste tubes, and milk jugs.

Everyday Plastic laid out© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

“Everyday Plastic” has now been transformed into an impressive mural, hanging at Margate’s Dreamland amusement park until May 21st:

“Having laid out all of the plastic to the exact size of the billboard, the piece was photographed by Ollie Harrop using a 5m high by 6m wide rig and the items were captured at actual size. The final piece measures 12.5m wide by 4m tall, and such was the volume of plastic, it required 20 individual photos to be taken and then stitched together in post-production by Ian Hall.”

Webb, who no doubt will be very glad to get his spare room back, learned some important lessons from the project. He realized the power of marketing to encourage people to buy things. He told the Guardian:

“That black plastic of meat packaging is to hide the colour of the blood, or the brown plastic of mushroom packaging makes the mushrooms look earthy.” He laughs. “I work in marketing, and I never thought I’d say this, but we really are being sold stuff we do not need. There is an epidemic of overproduction and overconsumption.”

Everyday Plastic© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

He also realized the pointlessness of recycling, which is something we’ve been reiterating on TreeHugger for years. Out of his entire collection, a mere 56 items were made from recycled plastic, proving that improving recycling rates is not the best goal. What we need is to “find ways of using less.”

While I do think we’ve reached the end of needing such year-long personal experiments to prove that consumption habits need to change, there is something powerful about seeing Webb’s waste and realizing that he represents all of us. If his disturbing mural can trigger a behavioral shift, then it’s a good thing.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/what-years-worth-plastic-looks.html

The problems with Amsterdam’s plastic-free grocery aisle

The aisle relies heavily on biodegradable plastics, which have serious drawbacks.

Earlier this winter, a supermarket in Amsterdam called Ekoplaza made headlines for having the first-ever plastic-free aisle. At the time, I wrote enthusiastically, “The aisle features more than 700 food items, including meats, sauces, yogurts, cereals, and chocolate; and, as unbelievable as it sounds, there’s not a speck of plastic in sight — only cardboard, glass, metal, and compostable materials.”

My assessment was not entirely accurate, however, because there was plenty of plastic in sight; it just happened to be made of compostable materials, such as plant cellulose, wood pulp, algae, grass, cornstarch, shrimp shells, etc. It looks like plastic, but is considered different because it’s not not made entirely from fossil fuels and is biodegradable. Some background via The Plastic Planet, which has partnered with Ekoplaza to create the aisle:

“Unlike conventional plastics, which will exist for centuries on our planet, biomaterials are designed to be composted – either in your home compost or in industrial composting facilities. They should be put in the same bin as your food waste, not your plastic recycling bin. All the biomaterial packaging in Ekoplaza Lab is certified as OK Home Compostable or BS EN13432, the key standard for industrial composting across Europe and the UK.”

Ekoplaza store view© Ekoplaza (via Facebook)

Not everyone is impressed by these efforts. Australian zero waste blogger Lindsay Miles is outraged by a plastic free aisle that’s full of plastic lookalikes. She sees the biodegradable plastic solution as seriously lacking because there is so much it fails to address. In an excellent blog post on the topic, she lists the problems with Ekoplaza’s approach. I’ve shared some of her thoughts below and added a few of mine.

1. The language is confusing. A promo video refers to this biodegradable packaging as ‘disappearing’ within 12 weeks, but that is inaccurate: “That’s impossible science. Compost, degrade, dissolve, evaporate – call it what it is. Nothing disappears.” Even the products themselves are confusing; for example, did you know that cellulose tube netting, used to sell oranges and pretty much identical to regular plastic netting, will degrade in a home composter? It’s unlikely that the average shopper would know this, or even try it.

2. There is no resource reduction. A tremendous amount of material is still required to make these biodegradable plastics. Miles writes:

“Growing huge amounts of food (sugar, corn, tapioca) with the sole purpose of synthesizing it into packets so that food items can be neatly displayed with predetermined portions in perfect rows in the supermarket? The land, energy and carbon footprint of that is huge.”

One fact I was especially shocked to learn last year while reading “Life Without Plastic” (book) was that a so-called biodegradable bag only needs to contain 20 percent plant material in order to be labeled as such. The other 80 percent could be fossil fuel-based plastic resins and synthetic additives. This is considered ‘residue.’

3. Compostable is a slippery term. Many of the plant-based plastics in Ekoplaza are compostable in industrial facilities. These are not widely available, or even if they are, they might run for a cycle time that’s shorter than what is needed to compost a particular item.

4. Compostable plastics do not biodegrade in the ocean. Alarm over the ocean plastic problem has driven many of the efforts to go plastic-free and zero waste, and yet these so-called greener products act the same as conventional plastics in water. Miles writes:

“No compostable plastic to date has been shown to break down in the marine environment. As plastic packaging is lightweight, floats, blows in the wind and can be carried by animals, it ends up in the ocean.”

5. This packaging still generates harmful waste. No matter how a plastic bag has been made, it’s just as capable of suffocating an animal, damaging a seagull’s gut, snagging on a sea turtle. These products are impossible to contain, and unless they’re in a proper industrial composting facility, the potential for littering and harm to animals is still there.

I am sure Ekoplaza and its partner, A Plastic Planet, have good intentions, but their approach falls short of what is really needed. It’s too focused on maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging customers to adopt a radically different and more effective shopping model. I do understand the importance of convenience and how this is integral to people minimizing their planetary impact, but there comes a point where we’re going to have to question the way we do things and become used to the idea of taking refillable containers to the store.

There are far better models for plastic-free shopping. From outdoor markets to bulk stores to farm share boxes and more, plastic-free does exist, free from greenwashing. You just need to know where to look and be willing to put in a little more effort.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/problems-amsterdams-plastic-free-grocery-aisle.html

This is what a year’s worth of plastic looks like

Daniel Webb’s project is a profound reminder that “there is no away” when it comes to plastic trash.

Starting on 1 January 2017, Daniel Webb stashed every piece of plastic he bought or received in his spare room. After 365 days, the room was full and Webb’s experiment was complete; he now had a tangible record of what an average British guy’s plastic consumption for one year looks like.

Why would one want to do such a thing? Well, for starters, Webb seems like the kind of guy who tackles ambitious projects; the Guardian recounts that he once ran six half-marathons in six days. But mainly, the project happened because Webb felt deeply afflicted by the amount of plastic pollution in his coastal town of Margate, England. He describes walking along the beach:

“Old toys, probably 20 years old, bottles that must have been from overseas because they had all kinds of different languages on them, bread tags, which I don’t think had been used for years. It was very nostalgic, almost archaeological. And it made me think, as a mid-30s guy, is any of my plastic out there? Had I once dropped a toy in a stream near Wolverhampton, where I’m from, and now it was out in the sea?”

So, Webb decided to do a plastic collection experiment. Without changing his shopping habits at all (though he’d already given up plastic water bottles), he kept every piece of plastic in order to document a year’s worth of consumption. The total number came to 4,490. Sixty percent of that was food packaging and 93 percent was single-use plastic. Only eight items, mostly coffee cups, were made from biodegradable plastics.

salad bags© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

The project was carefully photographed by Ollie Harrop and named “Everyday Plastic.” The pictures reveal personal lifestyle habits; Webb clearly likes his chips and candy, but also went through plenty of cellophane bags for salad greens, broad beans, and netted bags of citrus. Then there are the familiar plastics that we all encounter on a daily basis, such as coffee cup lids, blister packs, toothpaste tubes, and milk jugs.

Everyday Plastic laid out© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

“Everyday Plastic” has now been transformed into an impressive mural, hanging at Margate’s Dreamland amusement park until May 21st:

“Having laid out all of the plastic to the exact size of the billboard, the piece was photographed by Ollie Harrop using a 5m high by 6m wide rig and the items were captured at actual size. The final piece measures 12.5m wide by 4m tall, and such was the volume of plastic, it required 20 individual photos to be taken and then stitched together in post-production by Ian Hall.”

Webb, who no doubt will be very glad to get his spare room back, learned some important lessons from the project. He realized the power of marketing to encourage people to buy things. He told the Guardian:

“That black plastic of meat packaging is to hide the colour of the blood, or the brown plastic of mushroom packaging makes the mushrooms look earthy.” He laughs. “I work in marketing, and I never thought I’d say this, but we really are being sold stuff we do not need. There is an epidemic of overproduction and overconsumption.”

Everyday Plastic© Ollie Harrop 2018 / Courtesy of Everyday Plastic

He also realized the pointlessness of recycling, which is something we’ve been reiterating on TreeHugger for years. Out of his entire collection, a mere 56 items were made from recycled plastic, proving that improving recycling rates is not the best goal. What we need is to “find ways of using less.”

While I do think we’ve reached the end of needing such year-long personal experiments to prove that consumption habits need to change, there is something powerful about seeing Webb’s waste and realizing that he represents all of us. If his disturbing mural can trigger a behavioral shift, then it’s a good thing.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/plastic/what-years-worth-plastic-looks.html