Five hundred tonnesof Christmas tree lights and at least 25m bags of plastic sweet wrappers, turkey coverings, drinks bottles and broken toys will be thrown away by UK homes this Christmas and new year. But only a tiny proportion of this waste will be recycled.
Even at other times of year, only a little under a quarter of the UK's plastic waste is recycled, but over the festive period still less escapes the tip according to a survey by home drinks maker SodaStream. Globally, recycling of plastics is even smaller.
The outcome is a belief that the Earth is being slowly strangledby a gaudycoat of impermeableplastic waste that collects in great floating islands in the world's oceans; clogs up canals and rivers; and is swallowed by animals, birds and sea creatures.
clog up 堵塞；阻塞
In many parts of the developing world it acts as a near ubiquitousoutdoor decoration, along roads in India, around villages in Africa and fluttering off fences across Latin America. And when it is not piling up, it is often burned in the open, releasing noxioussmoke.
pile up 堆积；堆放起来
There are no global figures on the true scale of the problem but, according to PlasticsEurope, the European trade association for plastics manufacturers, 265m tonnes of plastic are produced globally each year. In the UK, about two thirds of this is for packaging; globally, this would translate to 170m tonnes of plastic largely created to be disposed of after one use.
dispose of 处理；解决
Even at the almost unmatched EU recycling rate of 33%, two thirds of that – or more than 113m tonnes – would end up in landfill, being burned or cluttering up the environment. Such a figure, almost certainly a huge underestimate, would be enough to cover the 48 contiguousstates of the US in plastic food wrapping. If the world recycled packaging at the rate the US does, 15%, it would generate more than enough plastic to cover China in plastic wrap. Every year.
clutter up 使杂乱；堆满；塞满 contiguous adj. 相邻的；邻近的
A few years ago the UK was seized with worry about plastic bags: communities went "plastic-bag free" and the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced he would talk to retailers about phasing them out. In the absence of much change, his successor, David Cameron, recently re-raised the idea of a national levy. In response, the plastics industry argues that the alternatives would be even more wasteful in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
be seized with 被（强烈的情感、愿望等）影响
phase out 使逐渐停止；逐步淘汰
in the absence of 缺乏；无…时
alternative adj. 供选择的；选择性的；交替的 n. 替换物；供替代的选择
in terms of 依据；按照；在…方面
greenhouse gas emissions 温室气体排放
What would a world without plastic look like? Earlier this year, Austria-based environmental consultancyDenkstatt imagined such a world, where farmers, retailers and consumers use wood, tins, glass bottles and jars, and cardboardto cover their goods. It found the mass of packaging would increase by 3.6 times, it would take more than double the energy to make and the greenhouse gases generated would be 2.7 times higher.
the mass of 大多数
To understand this, consider the propertiesof plastic that make it so attractive: it is durable, flexible, it does not shatter, it can breathe (or not) and it is extremely lightweight. As a result, food and drink are protected from damage and kept for lengths of time previously unimaginable.
The European Packaging and Films Association (Pafa) says average spoilageof food between harvest and table is 3% in the developed world, compared with 50% in developing countries, where plastic pallets, crates, trays, film and bags are not so widespread. Once the food reaches people's homes, its lifespan is also increased – for a shrinkwrapped cucumber, from two to 14 days.