People Are Retweeting This Old, Sandy Yogurt Cup As A Call For Change

The man who found it couldn't believe the date.

A little bit of trash on the beach typically wouldn't make news. But this particular cup of yogurt came with a telling detail.

Twitter user Rob Gordon says he was cleaning the beach when he found the Yoplait cup in the sand. After picking it up, he noticed the date: 1976. The package was advertising the 1976 Olympics that were held in Montreal.



It didn't take long for his tweet to go viral. The image isn't just a reminder of how we pollute our beaches and oceans — it also reminds us of just how long plastic containers survive in nature after they leave our kitchens. According to one startling estimate from The World Economic Forum, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Darby Hoover, the senior resource specialist for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), explained to A Plus that plastic does not biodegrade within a meaningful timeframe. And when it does break up, it's because light makes it brittle as it bangs against other things in the ocean. 

This means it isn't biodegrading — or breaking down to its molecular components — it's remaining plastic.

"Part of the problem is that what we're dealing with in the ocean is little tiny teeny pieces of plastic that have broken down from larger pieces of plastic," Darby told A Plus. "That plastic is essentially found in all oceans throughout the world, it concentrates in some of the areas known as gyres which are essentially whirlpools."

Trash that washed ashore from the Panama Canal. Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Trash that washed ashore from the Panama Canal. Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com

5 Gyres, a nonprofit organization that "empowers action against the global health crisis of plastic pollution," estimated in 2012 that there were 269,000 metric tons of plastic in the ocean, made up of 5.25 trillion particles of plastic, enough to go to the moon and back twice.

Cleaning up the plastic has proven difficult. Not just because the plastic is often so tiny, but because there are few safe ways to suck the plastic up without also hurting or killing plankton and smaller marine life. Instead of focusing on clean-up, Darby says we should focus on stopping plastic pollution now.

"There is not really a viable clean up effort right now," Darby said. "We should be working on ways to remove what's going in there, but more importantly, we should just be stopping any flows of plastic into the ocean. The prevention efforts are really very, very important."

According to Darby, estimates say up to 50 percent of plastic we produce is for disposable items. The NRDC tries to introduce legislation that limits plastic grocery bags, styrofoam and plastic that are used only once. 

Some of the NRDC's best data indicates that food and beverage packaging are one of the most common kinds of beach pollution they find in their clean-up. Along with simply not littering, she suggested finding ways to reduce the use of disposable foods and packages like plastic forks or coffee cups.

If you'd like to contribute to the NRDC in their fight to protect the environment, you can check out their website here.  

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