Plastic is an integral material in our everyday lives, but unfortunately, it has extremely destructive capabilities to the environment. Plastic pollution refers to the build-up of plastics in the environment, it is a huge environmental issue that has adverse effects on the planet. The issue is worsened by our actions, with some of us not fully comprehending the negative effects. Therefore, it is important that we fully understand the damaging effects plastic pollution is having on our environment and capably tackle the issues at hand. This article will discuss the dangerous effects plastic pollution is having on the Earth’s environment, and outline tips on how to aid in its prevention.
One of the main factors contributing to plastic pollution is the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastics. According to Oceans Plastic Free, plastic production requires an enormous amount of energy and resources. This process causes carbon emissions and contributes to global warming. Furthermore, recycling plastic is extremely inefficient- only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled. Two-thirds of unrecycled and incorrectly disposed plastics come from land-based sources, which eventually find their way into our oceans.
A large number of plastics in our oceans creates detrimental effects on our marine life. Plastic takes up to 500 years to fully break down and eventually fragments into smaller and smaller plastics called microplastics. There are 51 trillion microscopic pieces of plastic in the planet’s environment, this equates to roughly 500 times the number of stars in our galaxy. These microplastics are extremely harmful to our marine life, with a lot of marine creatures becoming trapped or confusing them for food; causing blockages and pain in the stomach and intestines. One in three fish caught for human consumption contains plastic- directly affecting humans. Are we eating plastic? And if so, how harmful is it to humans? In seawater, plastic absorbs crucial chemicals that have been linked to endocrine disruption and certain cancers. Regardless of whether we eat fish or not, 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants-which is more the reason for us to protect our marine life. For more information, take this quick quiz regarding plastic pollution:
It is clear that plastic pollution is extremely damaging to the environment, but it is impossible to remove all plastic pollution from our oceans. Only 1% of marine litter floats, with the vast majority of it sinking to the seafloor. It is also impossible to remove all microplastics from our oceans due to their microscopic nature. However, there are various ways in which we can help. For example:
- Refuse plastic whenever you can- try not to use plastic straws, plastic bags, etc. Use a reusable straw, or carry a reusable coffee cup to prevent waste.
- Recycle- make sure you recycle any plastics and split up your waste into different bins.
- Try to buy things that aren’t in plastic packaging- for example, a lot of items are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic. Try to avoid buying these items where you can.
- Buy products in bulk- this will prevent excess plastic waste.
- Stop buying water- plastic bottles contribute to a large amount of plastic waste, stop throwing away plastic bottles, and switch to reusable water bottles to reduce waste.
It is clear that plastic pollution has extremely damaging effects on the environment, but becoming eco-friendlier can be a massive help. As a community, we can collectively make a significant difference and continue to make improvements in this increasingly worrying situation. The future of the planet rests on our shoulders, and the smallest of changes to everyday life can make the world of a difference.