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Plastics Pollution; A Threat To Our Planet
Up until now there is no clear solution on how to solve the expanding plastic pollution in our planet. 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced since the 1950s when its usage extended to textiles, fashion, toys and other domestic uses. Of all the plastics ever produced only 9% was recycled, while 12% was burnt. The remaining 79% is still sticking around in landfill and oceans. With the continued production and poor plastic waste management, we can expect that we will soon drown the planet with plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is one of the most crucial environmental issues as it grows faster than our ability to deal with it.
Plastic takes up 500 to 1000 years to breakdown but almost everything has plastic components or is partially made from it because of its beneficial characteristics. The material is durable, lightweight, easy to mold, and incredibly cheap compared to other materials such as ceramic, glass and metal.
Plastic is a suitable material to use for packaging, appliances, cellphones, furniture, vehicles, and many others. The material is handy and beneficial that we use it even for throw away items. Coffee caps, straws, candy wrappers, and plastic bags are just few examples of single-use plastic products. Around the world, 1 million disposable drinking bottles are purchased every minute and 5 trillion plastic bags are thrown every year. In total, half of plastic produced is for packaging or designed for single use which is alarming as the material takes centuries to decomposed.
Impacts of Plastic Pollution
Clearly, we have lost control of plastic especially on waste management. It accumulates in landfill and oceans releasing hazardous chemicals into nature as the material breakdown. It also threatens our wildlife as animals are trapped or mistake plastics as food which cause them death. In 2018, a dead Sperm Whale was washed up in a shore in Spain and found to have eaten 32 kilos of plastics. Small marine and land animals are also not safe from plastic as there are microplastics that they can easily swallow. Microplastics are smaller than 5mm which can be found in cosmetics and toothpastes but most are from wastes that are exposed to UV radiation which crumbles them into smaller pieces.
Why not Ban Plastic?
Despite of the many negative effects of plastic on our environment, banning it is not an option. Other materials are simply not suitable as an alternative to plastic. For instance, exterior car trim elements are molded from tough and lightweight plastic. Replacing the plastic components with metal would make the vehicle heavy which would require more fuel that can lead to more carbon dioxide emissions. This would result to higher environmental impacts.
Another reason is that plastic production only consumes 4% oil as its feedstock compared to producing metals, glasses, and papers.
Solution to Plastic Pollution
This issue should be address from a global perspective. We need to redesign some products and use good alternatives to minimize plastic production. Some countries and cities started to ban the use of plastic bags in groceries and replace them with paper bags. Some use banana leaves for food packaging. There are also restaurants that use paper or bamboo straws for their drinks.
Our individual daily actions are of course important to solve this global issue. Avoid using plastic as much as possible is a good start. Bring reusable bag or basket when doing grocery, stop using plastic straw on your drinks, use reusable drink containers instead of buying plastic bottled drinks, and manage your plastic waste responsibly by practicing the 3Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Isabella Whitmore is a writer who enjoys spending her time with the nature. You can find some of her work at https://electrickettlesplus.com/, and appliance website that offers safe and BPA-free electric kettles.
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