OUR PLANET AND PLASTICS
Reasons Why We Need To Use Fewer Plastics
Plastic is indeed a miracle material. Its benefits are undeniable. Thanks to countless lives being saved in the health sector, the safe food storage system have been completely revolutionised. The growth of clean energy from wind turbines and solar panels has been greatly facilitated, and what is more, the material is cheap, lightweight and easy to use. These seem to make plastics indispensable on our planet. However,it is also virtually in-disposable. In fact, it has become one of our planet's greatest menaces in recent years. How so?
CONSIDER THREE AREAS:
"The world's seas and oceans, already polluted with spilt oil, toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste, are now being fouled by a new and insidious form of pollution-plastic waste", reports the New York Times. Just imagine! More than 1000kg of plastic ends up in the ocean every five seconds (5 seconds), rendering 40% of the world's ocean useless.
Going by numbers, according to research work, there was approximately 150 million tons of plastic pollution in the world oceans as of 2016, and the number is estimated to grow to 250 million tons in 2025. This is staggering considering the fact that six (6) years earlier (in 2010), it was believed that an estimated 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastics were tossed into the ocean. No doubt, plastic waste inflict a significant blow on our seas; however, the ocean isn't the only victim.
Plastic pollution on land poses a great threat to both plants and animals alike. Though hard to believe, the amount of plastic waste on the earth is more enormous and more concentrated than those in the oceans. In fact, it is estimated to be around four and thirty-three times that of the sea. Think of it, if 150 million tonnes of plastic waste is in the world ocean as of 2016, how much would be on the land?
To add to this is the fact that chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil seeping into the groundwater and surrounding water source, thereby posing a significant danger on the species that depend on such water for survival.
Also according to a report in 2019, "production and incineration of plastic in 2019 would contribute greenhouse gases in the equivalent of 850 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere and it is expected that by 2030, the annual emission from these sources should have grown to 1.34 billion tons".
The evidence is indeed overwhelming that we're already unable to cope with the amount of plastic waste we generate. There is still more to it.
When it comes to health, plastic waste causes a plethora of problems. And the major problem of plastic as with other pollutants is their cost in terms of life. It is believed that there are 275 million metric tons of plastic in the world's ocean which is found to kill over 1 million marine animals yearly. Giant sea turtles mistake floating garbage bags for translucent, undulating jellyfish, choking on the bag or swallowing them whole which in either way kill them.
Moreover, all kinds of marine life from whales to dolphins and seal often get tangled up in abandoned fishing lines and nets which are made of plastics. Seal, for instance playfully thrust their snouts through discarded plastics rings, and then unable to get them off again or even to open their mouths. With what result? They slowly starve to death. Seabirds on their own get caught up in fishing lines and frantically trash themselves to death trying to free themselves.
In addition, because it provides an excellent breeding ground for mosquito and pets, plastics wastes such as plastic bags increase the transmission of vector-borne diseases like malaria - a life-threatening illness responsible for the death of 405,000 in 2018.
To add to that, a 2017 study found that 83% of tap water sample taken around the world contained plastic pollutants, and coming home, United State (US) is the most polluted country with 94% of the tap water in the country polluted. Granted, it has not been scientifically proved yet if this contamination is affecting human health, however, if the water is also found to contain nano-particle pollutants, then this could impact social well-being negatively.
How can something as cheap and affordable as plastics wreak havoc on our economy? Well, the truth is it does.Plastic pollution costs the world billions of dollars every year both in damage and in lost resources. To illustrate, according to a study published in marine pollution bulletin, fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities, and global well-being are all negatively affected by plastic pollution, with an estimated 1-5% decline in the benefits humans derive from oceans. This, in turn, cost society up to $2.5 trillion year.
Undoubtedly, economics damage caused by plastic waste is vast. When littered and thrown into the landfill, its economics impact includes not just the economic value of the material but also the costs of cleaning up and its effect on tourism.
So what is the point? Granted plastics are convenient, economically valuable, and lifesaving materials, however, they need to be better used. And considering those mentioned above, we can see that plastic isn't the problem, what we do with it is. So let us be smarter in the way we use it by reducing the quantity we use where and when possible.