04/04/2017 1:53 PM AEST | Updated 05/04/2017 1:50 AM AEST

We Don't Have Time To Kill When It Comes To Toxic Plastic

Plastic is a convenience that solves a lot of our short-term problems. Except it is starting to choke us.

Plastic is a convenience that solves a lot of our short-term problems. Except it is starting to choke us.

In December 2016, I was at the beach and saw a large group of children with parents and friends having a water-balloon fight on the sand. In essence, this was good, outdoor fun.

Unfortunately, every single one of those balloons bursts on impact, fragmenting into pieces that were being trampled into the soft sand or carried into the sea by waves on the high tide. Anyone who walks along a beach and looks down at the tide line will see humanity's euphoric addiction to plastic ending up in the ocean.


I stopped and watched for a minute at the gleeful game, with parents watching on and children ecstatic. I said, out loud but not directed at any individual: "You're kidding, aren't you? All that plastic is literally being thrown straight into the sea." I received a sharp response: "Piss off mate, it will all be picked up." The reality was a lot of the plastic/latex shrapnel was being trodden into the sand, soon to be carried out to sea. Cleaning it all up was not likely...

However, there was a much larger problem at play here and I didn't want to get caught up in the detail of one particular incident. My job has taken me to many countries around the world, and at every destination I have been struck by the massive issue of plastic pollution. It wasn't a case of which location, it was the degree of how bad it was in any given location.

I turned to the Internet for some initial research and found there were hundreds (probably thousands) of grassroots organisations and some big businesses involved in 'reduce, re-use or recycle' programs. There was also information on just how much plastic is being produced, how much is being recycled and how long it takes to break down which, truthfully, it doesn't. Plastic tends to 'break up' into microscopic pieces rather than break down and eventually ends up in the ocean and the food chain. The simple maths says it's a losing battle. The human population on the planet is producing so much plastic that no matter how strong our attempts to reduce, re-use or recycle are, production is simply going to outweigh these efforts.

Joel Coleman
"A young boy is working on solving one of the world's greatest pollution problems..."

I want to inspire people to take some action in their lives. Reduce the amount of plastic you consume (especially single use); encourage your children to think about the world they want to live in or leave behind; realise that plastic does not break down, it breaks up into ever-smaller pieces and eventually ends up in the food chain.

Simply put, we are essentially feeding ourselves plastic and that, my friend, is just plain dumb.

Plastic is everywhere and it's not going away on its own. We make more every day than we can ever dispose of. We can only recycle a percentage and a small one at that. The only real solution is to stop making it.

Joel Coleman
"If we get this wrong, we are destined to a world filled with plastic waste. But if we get it right, we could be destined for a world filled with beauty.


This is an edited extract of a post which first appeared on Joel's blog. You can get more information about his photographs here.