Information about the plastic soup

Do you see more and more plastic litter on the street or in the water? Do you see people throwing plastic bags or candy wrappers on the street? That litter won’t go away by itself. This is because plastic is very clever – it is cheap, light weight and lasts forever. In nature, plastic cannot break down so unless someone picks it up and throws it away in a bin, it will stay there or end up in the sea. When it piles up at sea we call it the ‘plastic soup’.

Animals cannot see the difference between food and plastic. They choke on plastic or if they eat it, their stomachs get so full of plastic that they can’t eat any proper food anymore. The animals will eventually starve to death. And what about fish nets or large pieces of plastic that float about at sea? Animals get caught in it, lots of animals from seals to sea turtles. We, the Plastic Soup Foundation, want to put an end to this and you can help us. But first, you need to know everything there is to know about the plastic soup.

Some facts and figures about the plastic soup

  • Captain Charles Moore sailed across the ocean in 1997. He saw so much plastic floating about in some areas that he decided to do some research. He then called plastic in the ocean the ‘plastic soup’, because it kind of looked like a vegetable soup, but then made from plastic!
  • Every year, about eight million tons of plastic ends up in sea. That’s about 20,425 tons every day! One ton is the same as 1,000 kilos! Just try to calculate how many kilos 20,425 tons is.
  • Plastic waste is found in all rivers and seas. Even in the most remote areas and places where few people go, like Antarctica and in the deep sea.
  • UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, estimates that millions of animals in the sea die every year because of plastic waste. Animals such as fish, sea birds, sea turtles, dolphins and whales. The Dutch children’s news showed a necropsy (an autopsy on an animal) of a dead Northern fulmar. Click on Jeugdjournaal to see what they found in the bird’s stomach.
  • Plastic particles in the sea attract toxic substances. These plastic particles enter the food chain because birds and fish think they are food. Because we humans are at the top of the food chain, we eat them too.

And don’t forget:

  • All the plastic that was ever produced in the world is still on earth in one way or another. Plastic that enters the ocean never disappears. All it does is slowly break into smaller and smaller pieces until you can’t see it anymore with the naked eye. This is called microplastic and nanoplastic.
  • Every year we produce more than 300 million tons of plastic. About half of this is used just once and is then thrown away. If we don’t do anything about it, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050!
  • About one billion plastic bags are used around the world every year. One billion is one million times one million. This is more than one million bags every minute! And one plastic bag is only used for about 15 minutes and is then thrown away.

Assignment or presentation?

Click on the links below for information about the:

Useful questions to prepare yourself, are:

  • what is the plastic soup?
  • where does the plastic soup come from?
  • what are the effects of the plastic soup on animals?
  • how can we make sure that the plastic soup does not get bigger?

Other ideas for a show-and-tell or for an activity with your classmates.

  • Look around your area to see what kind of litter there is. Hunt for trash with Trash Hunters, join in their research and help find a solution for the plastic soup.
  • Pick up litter with your classmates around school or in the school playground. Don’t only pick up the large pieces of litter, but also the small ones. Put it all in one place. How much litter did you find in just one small area?
  • Sort out the litter and see which items are made of plastic and whether there are good alternatives for them. For example, instead of a plastic tea bag, you could use paper ones or loose leaf tea. Or a cotton shopping bag or one with a deposit instead of a plastic bag. And what about glass bottles or plastic bottles with a deposit?

Do you want to take action and stop the plastic soup? It’s easy!

  • Do a show-and-tell or make a film about the plastic soup at your school.
  • Organise a playground clean up with the sports club or the neighbourhood.
  • Use less plastic. Bring your own cup and lunch box to school instead of using a throwaway cup and plastic sandwich bag.
  • Use your own shopping bag. Don’t say yes to plastic carrier bags in shops.
  • Don’t throw any litter on the street, in the woods or in the water.
  • Balloons are fun, but releasing balloons is no fun for animals. What goes up must come down. Sea birds get caught in the ribbons and eat the balloons. Tell everyone you know about this and request the action pack.
  • Don’t brush your teeth with plastic! Check your toothpaste with the free Beat the Microbead-app.

Children often feel a huge sense of responsibility for animals and nature and are keen to do something to help. That is why the Plastic Soup Foundation gives guest lessons at primary schools throughout the Netherlands, in which school children of all ages learn about plastic soup. This is how we increase awareness in the youngest children.

As soon as they reach secondary school, their perception changes and they are more concerned about their ‘image’. It is cool to drop litter on the street without thinking about the consequences. The Plastic Soup Foundation wants to change this attitude and make sure teenagers are more aware about the environment and know about the consequences of dropping litter. They will act as role models for later generations.

At the moment we only provide guest lectures around schools in the Netherlands, but we are re-shaping our education program, so stay tuned for exciting updates!