“We are being choked to death by the amount of plastic that we throw away. It’s killing our oceans. It’s entering into our bodies in the fish we eat.” – Kevin Bacon, Actor
Plastic, one of the greatest and evilest inventions of humans. Plastic is so evil that you can compare it with a nuclear bomb. It is true that without plastic humanity couldn’t achieve this much as we are here. But everything comes at a cost. Plastic is destroying our climate, ecosystem, and even our body. We are well aware of air, water, land pollution. Let’s talk about another type of pollution called Plastic pollution. Let’s dive deep into plastic pollution, its effect and what should we do?
What Is Plastic?
To develop new things, humanity required something strong, moldable, durable, and lightweight, and this problem is solved by plastic nearly 100 years ago. Plastic is a long chain of polymers that binds together to form a sticky substance. And this sticky substance is converted into different things that we use in our day to daily life. After the discovery of plastic, humans have used about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic and it is increasing exponentially. We can see different types of plastic used in different things such as PVC for plumbing/electric gears, bakelite in telephones, etc. Almost everything we use is made of plastic. Now, we know what plastic is. Let’s dive deep into plastic pollution.
What is Plastic Pollution?
We all know we are making plastic objects every day on a large scale. So what happens to that Plastic that we dump after one use. This all Plastic that we are using is causing Plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles such as Plastic bottles, plastic beads, etc. We have accumulated so much plastic that we can see plastic everywhere harming our ecosystem, wildlife, and our lifestyle as well. We are consuming plastic in our food daily without knowing. Let’s go through some facts about plastic in the world.
Facts About The Plastic Around The World
1- An amount equivalent to 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950. And this number is increasing exponentially
2- More than 6.3 billion tons of plastic have become waste since 1950. If we gather it all together it will make a cube with a side length of 1.9 km.
3- Only 9% of the total plastic produced has recycled. And 12 % of plastic has burnt. And the rest of the plastic stick in the environment.
4-Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year. In 2015, 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic.
Major Sources Of Plastic
Why Is Plastic Pollution Harmful?
You might be thinking it’s just plastic. How much plastic can affect us? Plastic is harming us more than anything else in the world.
1- Non- Biodegradable
Plastic is made up of a long chain of polymers interlinked together strongly. Sometimes to make plastic flexible, strong, and durable several other chemicals are mixed with plastic. Due to this plastic becomes micro organism resistant. Hence, microorganisms don’t affect plastic and plastic becomes non-biodegradable. So, due to this addition of chemicals, it takes around 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.
2- Greenhouse Emission
Plastic is a contributing greenhouse gas to the environment in two ways. The First is via pre-plastic production and the second is post plastic production.
During Plastic Production
Plastic requires water, electricity, chemicals for production, and their growth in the plastic production industries has been increased with respect to increasing plastic demand among the public. Due to which energy consumption for the plastic industry is increasing and eventually the consumption of more water, electricity, and chemicals. We are wasting too much energy on something that is eventually harming our environment.
Post Plastic Production
When plastic comes under direct sunlight, the plastic bond starts to break in this process plastic releases Methane gas which has 21 times more GWP(Global Warming Potential) than carbon dioxide. If the plastic is exposed to direct sunlight for a longer period. Then the bond becomes weak and it will release methane even without exposure to sunlight. Hence, plastic is contributing to climate change as well.
3- Destroying Marine Life
At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. You might have heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch which is the collection of plastic and floating trash that ended up in the ocean. According to a study, By 2050, it’s estimated the weight of all plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish. This plastic is not only destroying nature but also killing thousands of marine animals every year. These floating plastics are eaten by many marine animals which end up killing them. Around 1 million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year due to ingesting or getting tangled in marine plastics.
Another problem is plastic releases many harmful chemicals such as artificial dyes which are polluting the ocean water. The animals exposed to this polluted water have to face several reproductive problems or cancer.
What Is Microplastic?
All we learn so far is a macro form of plastic. We also have an invisible enemy called Microplastic. Microplastics are pieces smaller than 5 nanometers. It can be found in your regular toothpaste and cosmetic. It is more dangerous than regular plastic. Regardless of this, there are other products which are consist of microplastic. These small pieces make their way directly to water sources and indirectly to us. How? When plastic is exposed to UV radiations it slowly degrades into smaller pieces that end up in an ecosystem. From the ecosystem, it ends up on our plate.
Microplastics have a much larger concentration in the ocean. Hence, small planktons eat those microplastic and then fishes eat those planktons. Then those fishes end up in the food plate. Hence from this cycle, it enters into our body. These microplastic contains chemicals like BPA which causes a hormonal imbalance in the human body or DEHP which can cause cancer. Around 51 Trillion microplastics are floating in the ocean water.
Most microplastic pollution comes from textiles, tyres, and city dust which account for over 80% of all microplastic pollution in the environment. So, is there any way to combat plastic pollution?
Can Banning Plastic Stop Plastic Pollution?
The first thing that comes up in your mind is ban plastic. But it’s not the direct solution to this serious problem. According to a study, a single-use plastic bag consumes so less energy than a reusable plastic, that you have to use a reusable plastic 7000 times to make a 0 net effect on the environment.
On the other hand, we can observe without plastic our life will not be the same. We waste a lot of food, on the spoilage of food a large number of methane releases. To keep food safe from spoilage we have to use plastic. We have different aspects of life where plastic is important. So, Banning plastic can not be a good option. So, what’s the solution?
How To Combat Plastic Pollution?
Reducing the use of plastic in your day-to-day life can make a big change. No political leader can bring a big change in plastic, the revolution has to be started within you. After reducing the plastic, try to recycle or reuse the existing plastic. Like using plastic water bottles for the decorative items for your home. It depends upon your creativity but takes the responsibility for yourself.
2- Join Beach Cleaning Drives
Join beach cleaning drives in your community. Joining beach drives does not only reduce the plastic in the ocean but also makes us aware of how plastic is destroying our nature. It’s an easy way to save the entering of plastics and harming marine life.
3-Eliminate Single-Use Plastic
Single-use plastic is the biggest reason for plastic pollution. The plastic which is made up of our 5 minutes use ends up in the environment for more than 100 years. Single-use plastic is contributing to waste as well. So, it is necessary to eliminate single-use plastic. You can check these tips on how to eliminate single-use plastic.
4- Pressurize The Government
Plastic pollution is not an individual problem. It’s an aggregate problem. We can eliminate plastic pollution only when all countries come together and identify plastic pollution as a serious issue. We have to aware the government of surging plastic pollution and demand strict actions regarding it. About 90% of the plastic dump into the ocean comes from 10 rivers from Asia and Africa. So, the governments around the world must take a stand against plastic pollution.
Plastic is one of the best inventions of humans. Without plastic, we haven’t seen many inventions in our life. So, plastic is important. But the rate humans use plastic in respect of deteriorating the environment is swift. Plastic is destroying the earth by damaging marine life and ecosystem and we have to take a stand against plastic pollution to save our earth.
But plastic pollution will only get over when politicians over the globe start addressing plastic pollution as a global issue. Till then we can try reducing the plastic from our side and encourage others to do so. Even a small step like not taking plastic carry bags etc can make a difference. We just have to take the stand or this earth will become the plastic earth.