Clouds are made of plastic too. Everything else seems to be. Plastic is everywhere, and it is in clouds too. Plastic Clouds are now known to drop a thousand tons of plastic each year on the National Parks of The Western United States alone. To quote USA today from June 12, 2020 “Delivered like dust by the wind and rain, researchers in a new study estimate that more than 1,000 tons of tiny plastic microparticles – roughly the equivalent of 120-300 million plastic water bottles – falls upon national parks and protected wilderness areas in the western United States each year”. The Plastic Cloud has been here for a long time and we are only now starting to realize it.
It has now been proven that some plastic in the ocean breaks down into what is called microplastics. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Microplastics have been found on every point on the earth: Mt. Everest, Antarctica, national parks in every country, in the guts of tiny creatures in the deepest depths of the ocean, in the guts of worms that only live underground in Antarctica, fresh natural water sources (streams and rivers), and in rain. Yes, rain. Think of that. Plastic waste from the ocean is in the rain, the rain that cools you off on a sunny day, the rain that waters crops, lawns, and forests. The rain that starts as rain and then turns into the snowflake that you catch on your tongue.
The rain that makes the snowpack and supplies the freshwater for municipal water systems has microplastics in it. That means microplastics are in your drinking water from any source, faucet, bottled water… everything. When you take a shower you are showering in plastic. All the animals either domestic, wild, raised as feed or food are all eating and drinking plastic that becomes part of their flesh.
The origin of rain is fascinating - yet I’m a bit of a geek admittedly. The concept of a tiny water droplet warming to the point that some natural lifting mechanism in our environment causes that tiny droplet of water to float high in the sky and combine with trillions of other tiny water droplets and form a cloud is simply incredible. The cloud moves over the ocean and continues to capture more water droplets like some sort of natural magnetic traction beam continually lifting water droplets into itself. Eventually the water droplets in aggregate get heavy enough to fall out, making rain.
Clouds travel thousands of miles and rain falls out of them when it is ready to. These raindrops contain plastic and thus deposit microscopic droplets everywhere there is rain. Everywhere.
Here’s what we don’t understand but need too. The lifting action of evaporation to lift a water droplet into the cloud must have basic properties that could be called limitations. How heavy of a droplet of water can be lifted and what weight is too heavy? Think of this: a droplet of water only exists because of a physical property of water called surface tension. Surface tension is what gives water droplets their shape. You see surface tension all the time. When you fill a glass too full of water you can see a small amount of water just above the rim of the glass - that’s surface tension. When you see a puddle on a smooth sidewalk or pavement, the puddle has edges that define its shape - that's surface tension. A drop of rain is visible and has a shape you can see - that’s surface tension. A water droplet that is in the process of evaporation has a shape - that’s surface tension. Surface tension holds the water molecules in a package until it combines with other water ‘packages’ making rain drops, puddles, and others. Surface tension will allow water ‘packages’ and drops and puddles to absorb or join in another water package increasing its size and shape. Surface tension will break at some point, and the droplets or raindrops become smaller as water molecules are less organized until re-organized collectively inside another droplet held together by surface tension.
The questions: How does plastic in water droplets affect that water droplet and it’s lifecycle? Does the weight or mass of the plastic cause a water droplet to contain fewer water molecules in order to compensate for space and weight consumed by the plastic? How does that extra weight, either positive or negative, compare to a normal water droplet’s weight and effect on evaporation? Can a certain size water droplet that couldn't be lifted before now be lifted? Do rain clouds hold more or less actual water as they accommodate plastic? Do clouds move differently because of the plastic that is in them? Are weather forecast models less accurate than before 1980, even by just a little bit?
It's possible that plastic in water droplets could create a new kind of cloud, The Plastic Cloud. The Plastic Cloud may look different, move different, function differently at different altitudes. Or it may look the same but function differently because of its plastic content, There are many more questions than answers but the data so far is real. Plastic is everywhere. Plastic is in the water you drink from municipal water supplies or bottled water, you can't escape it. Plastic is in your food, you can’t escape it. Some estimates state that we each eat about 7 pounds of plastic each year due to plastic in food that we would never expect. The effects of plastic on our bodies and physiological makeup are terrifying. The toxins that continually leach from plastic of any size contain compounds that mimic human hormones. The amount of these compounds released in our bodies from even the smallest plastic particles cause our bodies to react as if the hormones have entered our bodies at a rate thousands of times larger than any normal does. Simply touching a standard receipt will release estrogen in your body at a rate hundreds of times greater than normal. What does this do to our bodies? Other than recording that the increased hormone event occurred, it is unknown what ramifications will result. I suggest that extremely large amounts of hormones introduced into our bodies, by surprise and unplanned, is extremely dangerous. The quantification of ailments that are today's norm but didn’t exist in the 1950s seems a daunting task. However, they may one day be linked to The Plastic Cloud.
Rolling Stone Magazine's article on plastic waste hits the nail on the head. False claims of recycling benefits made by petroleum companies and soda companies like Coke and Pepsi are placed front and center as Tim Dickinson tells the truth about plastic waste. Clearly Tim Dickinson did his homework when writing this article.
The full article can be found here
A lawsuit filed in California this week calls out big plastic and names big brand offenders. The lawsuit names big petroleum companies, brand names that are the largest contributors to plastic waste, clearly articulates the disinformation and propaganda campaign to mislead consumers about recycling, and demands compensation necessary to cleanup the environmental disaster created by the plastic industry. Here are some excerpts from the lawsuit filed in California this week:
The parties of the suit and the Allegations are:
Earth Island Institute,
Crystal Geyser Water Company,
The Clorox Company,
The Coca-Cola Company,
Nestle USA, Inc.,
Danone North America,
Mondelez International, Inc.,
The Procter & Gamble Company,
And DOES 1-25, inclusive,
"A. Defendants created the condition of plastic pollution, which is extraordinarily harmful to humans, animals, and the environment.
B. As Defendants have known for decades, recycling by itself cannot prevent plastic pollution from damaging oceans, waterways and coasts.
C. Defendants refuse to adopt more sustainable alternatives in order to reap higher profits resulting from using virgin plastic.
D. Defendants’ decades-long campaign of misinformation about the Products’ recyclability puts the cost of plastic pollution on consumers and public entities.
E. Earth Island Institute, its members, and the public have and will continue to incur significant harm to economic, property, recreational, and aesthetic interests."
Furhter information in the suit as filed with the California court states that "A significant portion of oceanic plastic pollution can be traced back to just a handful of major companies who use extensive plastic packaging, much of it single-use, for their products (“Products”) which infiltrate marine environments.”
"The audit identified the 10 companies most responsible for plastic pollution as: Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, Mondelez International, Unilever, Mars Incorporated, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Phillip Morris International, and Perfetti van Melle (in descending order). The top three contributors-Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle-are linked to 14% of global oceanic plastic pollution”
“Defendants have created the condition of plastic pollution in California’s coasts and waters 1) by refusing to switch to more sustainable materials in order to reap higher profits from cheap, virgin plastic, 2) engaging in a campaign of misinformation about the true causes of plastic pollution and viable solutions for mitigating its effects, 3) and deceptively maintaining consumer loyalty and demand for Defendants’ Products by falsely advertising the Products’ recyclability. Defendants reap in billions in profits, while public and nonprofit organizations such as Earth Island Institute spend billions in public and charitable funds to mitigate the effect of plastic pollution on humans, wildlife, oceans, and waterways."
“Defendants have received extensive criticism for their contribution to the plastic waste crisis. For instance, Defendants Coca-Cola, Pesi and Nestle have been repeatedly mentioned in recent news coverage as the top three brands found during beach cleanups around the world. At the April 2019 conference of the Plastic Industry Association, Garry Kohl of PepsiCo said to his fellow members: 'All we hear is ‘you’ve got to get rid of plastics.' John Caturano of Nestle Waters North America said at a conference in March 2019: 'The water bottle has, in some way, become the mink coat or the pack of cigarettes.' 'It’s socially not very acceptable to the young folks, and that scares me.’ "
“Furthermore, Defendants tout their ‘recyclable’ consumer Products to the public but fail to mention that they opt to use cheap virgin plastic in their supply chain rather than recycled plastic. For example, 91% of the plastic packaging Coke uses annually is made from virgin plastic. This fact is conveniently left out of promotional materials about Cokes ‘recyclable’ plastic bottles. Others are even worse: more than 99% of Unilever’s plastic package was made virgin plastic in 2019, while Nestle used 98%.”
“Defendants heavily marketed, promoted, and advertised the Products in plastic packaging, which were sold by their respective affiliates and subsidiaries. Defendants received direct financial benefit from their affiliates’ and subsidiaries’ sales of the Products. Defendants’ role as a promoter and marketer was integral to their respective businesses and a necessary factor in bringing plastic packaged products, especially single use plastic, to the consumer market, such that Defendants had control over, and a substantial ability to influence, the manufacturing and distribution process of their affiliates and subsidiaries.
Throughout the times at issue, Defendants knew or should have known, based on information available to them from their affiliates and/or from the scientific community, that plastic packaged, whether used as intended or misused in a foreseeable manner, inevitably causes the toxic and devastating ocean and marine life impacts as described above.”
“Throughout the times at issue Defendants individually and in concert widely disseminated marketing materials, refuted the generally accepted scientific knowledge at the time, and developed public relations campaigns that prevented reasonable consumers from recognizing the risk that plastic packaging would cause grave harm to waterways, coasts, and marine life, thus undermining and rendering ineffective any warnings that Defendants may have also disseminated.”
“Throughout the time at issue, Defendants’ Products have not performed as safely as an ordinary customer would expect them to because the plastic packaging in the Products has numerous global and local impacts on waterways, coasts, oceans, and marine life. In particular, ordinary consumers did not expect that:
a. More than 90 percent of plastic packaging is not and cannot be recycled, and inevitably becomes waste;
b. Plastic is now found throughout the ocean and in most marine life;
c. The majority of the plastic in the oceans is from plastic packaging, much of it single-use;
d. Plastic will never biodegrade, and instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics;
e. For these reasons and others, the unmitigated use of plastic packaging presents significant threats to marine environments and marine life, and those that enjoy and utilize these resources.”
“Additionally, and in the alternative, Defendants’ Products are defective because the risks they pose to consumers and to the public, including and especially to Plaintiff, outweighs their benefits.
a. The gravity of the potential harms causes by plastic packaging is extreme. Plastic pollution and its attendant harms to waterways, coasts, oceans, and marine life are guaranteed to occur following the use or foreseeable misuse of the Products because plastic is inherently toxic and permanent, and inevitably enters marine environments. Furthermore, the harm from plastic in the ocean will continue for decades even if all plastic production ceased today.
b. The social benefit of placing single-use and other types of plastic packaging into the stream of commerce is vastly outweighed by the availability of alternative packaging options that could have been placed into the stream of commerce that would not have caused the harms described herein. Defendants knew of the external costs of using plastic packaging for the Products and placing them into the stream of commerce. Rather than striving to mitigate those externalities, Defendants acted affirmatively to obscure them from public consciousness.
c. Defendants’ campaign of disinformation regarding single-use and other types of plastic packaging and recycling and the impacts of plastic on waterways, coasts, oceans, and marine life prevents customers, consumers, and the general public from taking steps to mitigate the inevitable consequences of consuming the Products.
d. The costs to society of each ton of marine plastic pollution increases as total global marine plastic pollution increases so that unchecked use and consumption of single-use and other types of plastic packaging is more harmful and costly than moderated use and consumption.
e. It was practical for Defendants, in light of their extensive knowledge of the hazards of placing single-use and other types of plastic packaging into the stream of commerce, to pursue and adopt known, practical, and available alternative technologies and business practices that would have mitigated their contribution to marine plastic pollution, and mitigated the harms associated with the use and consumption of the Products."
The full document as filed with the California court can be found by clicking here.