Recently somebody on Quora asked me:  ‘Should we be worried about plastic pollution?

“Worrying is like a Rocking Chair… You can keep moving but it will get you nowhere”

So, should we hope for a solution then?

“The opposite of hope is not hopelessness, it’s action” (Joanna Macy)

Because in my opinion everybody is looking through the wrong end of a binocular to this plastic pollution problem, I want you to turn your binoculars. 

But first things first:

Let’s try to bring the plastic pollution problem into perspective and do some math.

How much plastic does the ocean contain, relatively?

Everybody is worried about the enormous amounts of plastic pollution in our oceans. Nobody knows how much, but a figure you hear often is 100 bilion kilo.

That is a lot of plastic!


You hear stories about plastic isles in the ocean, you see pictures in newspapers of enormous piles of plastic floating in the ocean, you see movies of birds and fish choking in plastic.

Now let me ask you a question.

Imagine you fill your house with water out of the ocean, totally filled with it. I don’t know how big your house is, but maybe we can stack 250 cubic meters water in it? So 250.000 liter.

How much plastic do you think is now in your house?

Make a guess:

A: 1 kilo?

B: 10 kilo? (every 25,000 liters contains 1 kilo plastic)

C: 100 kilo? (every 2500 liters contains 1 kilo plastic)

Please brace yourself:

How big are our oceans? They are vast! And they contain lots and lots and lots of water, around 1,335,000,000 cubic kilometers of water.

Houw must water fits into one cubic kilometer?  

One cubic kilometer is 1000 x 1000 x 1000 times a cubic meter. One cubic meter water contains 1000 liter. As a result one cubic kilometer water contains 1,000,000,000,000 liter; 1000 bilion liter.

The ocean contains 1,335,000,000 times a 1000 bilion liter water.

1,335,000,000,000 bilion liter water contains 100 bilion kilo plastic.

There you go, now it’s simple to calculate how much plastic is in every liter of ocean-water.

100 / 1,335,000,000,000 = 0,000000000074906 kilo per liter.

This is 0,000000074906 gram per liter.

There is 250.000 liter water in your house.

250.000 liter x 0,000000074906 gram/liter makes a total of ….

Surprise, surprise:

0.02 gram plastic in your house.

Most people I asked this question think it is answer C: 100 kilo.  This is 5,000,000 times the amount our ocean contains. How did this mismatch came into existence? Our media likes to focus on what they think people think is interesting. And then blow it out of proportion. 

HO, STOP!

I didn’t say plastic in our oceans is not a problem. Because it’s a huge problem. Let me rephrase that: it will become an enormous problem.

Let’s return to your home. How much plastic is right now at this moment in your house?

This easily adds up to 100 kilo!

Last year alone we produced around 350 bilion kilo of plastic. This is the weight of the total human population worldwide. This plastic resides on land. Still. Some of this plastic leaks into the ocean. Some of it get’s airborne. And this amount grows, it grows exponentially. But still, most of it is still on land.

If we don’t act on that, on the plastic still on land, our children will eat plastic, drink plastic and breathe plastic.

If you want to know, what you can do about this?

Read my answer to:

Peter Smith’s answer to What can I do for 10 minutes every day that will change my life? (https://www.quora.com/What-can-I-do-for-10-minutes-every-day-that-will-change-my-life/answer/Peter-Smith-204)

Have a prosperous life,

Peter.