With the increase in population, the use of resources is also increasing. In recent years we have seen an exponential increase in the use of plastics. Reports show that in the year 2018, about 359 million metric ton of plastic was produced. Plastic is one material that takes the longest to decompose. The first plastic bags were introduced in 1950, and these bags might not have decomposed yet, this is how long plastic takes to decompose. All the plastic that has been produced till today still smears the face of the earth in one form or another polluting our environment.
Plastic Pollution Causes
Plastic was introduced and invested in the 1950s, and before that, no similar material was made that could not be decomposed naturally. Another fact that aids its manufacturing is that it is not very expensive. That is why we see numerous companies manufacturing plastic products, at massive scale. There is no industry today that does not use plastic. It has a wide range of uses, and people have made it part of their regular lives. The most important thing to know is that all the plastic manufactured is also disposed of in the environment, which is slowly choking the system. In the year 1960, traces of plastic were observed in the oceans, and ever since, plastic is one of the most significant pollutants to the freshwaters.
How does plastic pollution affect humans?
Every year, only Americans dispose of 30 million tons of plastic; this is in the form of plastic bags, straws, cups, etc. Out of this, only 8 percent is recycled in one way or another, while the rest is disposed in landfills or dumped in the oceans. The three worst ways in which the plastic is affecting the humans are:
- Exposure to plastic and other such toxins can lead to cancer and other such deadly diseases. The presence of plastic particles directly affects the human body in the vilest ways.
- Landfills are one of the most popular ways of disposing of waste and plastic, but one thing often neglected is the groundwater. Each United States state sits on millions of acres of land that is landfilled. The toxins from these landfills’ seep in the groundwater and then into oceans and lakes. Most of the running water in US households comes from lakes and freshwater bodies.
- When we dispose of plastics into the oceans, they enter the bloodstreams of thousands of species that live underwater. Humans are at the top of the food chain, and all that plastic ends up in our plates on the dining tables.
What animals are most affected by plastic?
The worst affected animals by plastic pollution are the water species that live in the waters. These include turtles, dolphins, whales, other fish species, seals, sea lions, and many more. Most of the sea creatures die because they are either choked by plastic in the sea or because of the oil spills in the ocean. According to research, about 1 million marine animals are killed each year because of plastic debris in the seas and oceans. There are approximately 100 million tons of plastic in the ocean right now that is slowly suffocating sea life.
Why is plastic so difficult to degrade?
Plastic is one of the most challenging products to degrade naturally. It takes over 50 – 80 years for an average plastic bag to degrade. To put it into perspective, decomposition is a process in which organic material breaks down into simpler organic compounds. When the debris or waste is dumped in the landfills, the bacteria and other components act upon it and decompose it. The plastic is made up of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), and bacteria are unable to decompose it. The only way through which plastic is decomposed is through sunlight, but that takes a very long time. Even then, plastic turns into a harmful component when it comes in contact with sunlight and is not suitable for the environment.
Is plastic waste a problem? What will happen if plastic pollution continues?
The plastic we see is not the only problem, but what is not visible is also a huge problem. The plastic that is found in the ocean slowly breaks into small particles because of water and enters into the bloodstream of marine animals. We, humans, are the most significant consumers of marine life, and this is how plastic is also entering into our systems. Plastics have become a part of our food chain, and if not stopped, it will be the reason for many new diseases.
Can the world stop producing plastic?
The fact of the matter is that we cannot avoid producing plastic. Many industries use plastic, and their business won’t sustain without plastic like the car industry that uses plastic for the interiors or the Tupperware industry. But we can certainly turn to better ways of using plastic or even minimize the use. The first step is to eliminate the use of single-use plastic. It is the plastic that lands in the dustbins every day, and this must be restricted. Another good alternative is the use of hemp plastic, which is less harmful in many ways.
What are hemp plastic and the benefits of hemp plastic?
Hemp plastic or commonly known as bio-plastic is a naturally made form of plastic. This plastic is made from the hemp plant and is also biodegradable. It is the plastic of the future, and one day, we might convert ultimately to hemp plastic or bioplastics. Some of the benefits of hemp plastics are:
- Increased strength
- Easy to manufacture
How can we solve plastic waste?
Australia is one country that is actively playing its part in reducing plastic pollution. They have devised a system that amasses all the plastic before it is deposited in the oceans. It is one thing that the world needs to adopt. We can reduce plastic waste by limiting the use of plastic in everyday life. Use paper bags and cloth bags instead of plastic bags, use metal or wooden straws instead of plastic straws; such small actions will benefit us in the long run.
Why is plastic important in our life?
It is almost impossible to eliminate plastic from our lives, but we can always limit the use of it. For example, if we replace the synthetic plastic spectacles frames with metal ones, not only will they become more massive, they will also heat up from sunlight. If we replace the plastic dashboards in the cars, it will be impossible to sit inside the car on a hot sunny day. Eliminating plastic is not the plan, but being responsible with use is.
What can you do to end plastic pollution?
It is crucial to reduce the amount of plastic used and pay attention to ecology. Recycling is another critical process that needs to be highlighted. In many countries, recycling is almost negligible, which increases waste by manifolds. Technology can be used in the best way possible to resolve the issue of plastic pollution, but we need to take concrete steps to eliminate it.
Currently, a plastic ban has been imposed in many countries, according to which the use of one-time-use plastic bags was banned. It is one small initiative that will go a very long way. Individuals need to take responsibility to achieve long-term environmental change.