Sleeping on a bed made of plastic bottles might sound a bit strange, but this latest development in sustainable mattresses represents one way that we can tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution.
Around the world, an amazing one million plastic bottles are bought every minute. That number is predicted to jump a further 20 per cent by 2021. By that year, annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion. Already, the majority of these end up in landfill, burnt or leaking into oceans.
Plastic and the Oceans
Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year. Much of it from soft drink or water bottles. According to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the middle of the century, our oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish.
In the North Pacific, a gyre (large system of circulating ocean currents) and plastic debris have combined to create what is now known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). It is estimated to be twice the size of France. It's predicted to double in size over the course of the next decade if current levels of plastic use (and recycling) continue.
The GPGP is often referred to as an ‘island. But in reality, it’s more like a large plastic soup made of tiny fragments of plastic. It has been estimated that it would take around 70 ships one year to clean up less than 1 per cent of the GPGP.
The Consequences of Plastic Pollution
For sea-based wildlife such as fish, dolphins, seabirds and seals, plastic can be deadly. Wildlife can become entangled in it or mistake it for food. But it’s not just animals that are affected. Recently, scientists at Ghent University in Belgium revealed that people who regularly eat seafood take in up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.
The frustrating thing about plastic bottles, is that most are made from polyethylene terephthalate, which is highly recyclable. So, waste shouldn’t be so much of an issue. But as their use grows across the world, attempts to collect and recycle the bottles are failing to keep up.
Fewer than half of the bottles bought worldwide in 2016 were collected for recycling. Just seven per cent of those collected were turned into new bottles.
To tackle this problem, some manufacturers are thinking outside the box, finding new ways to utilise old plastic. One such example is the mattress you could sleep on. Part of a drive towards greater sustainability in the industry, a number of manufacturers are creating mattresses made from recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are crushed and spun into a fine, soft fibre. This is then used to form a breathable layer that makes sleeping on it a cool and comfortable experience.