How does plastic harm our environment?
Plastic waste, being ubiquitous, is pushing the government, communities, and individuals to take action because it causes potential harm to both marine lives as well as humans. Several shreds of evidence have been found that prove the death-causing nature of plastics:
Research and Evidence:
- In late 2018, research shows that every single turtle inhabiting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is found with synthetic particles like micro-plastics in their intestinal tracts.
- Studies done on 90% of the Layson albatross chicks revealed that their upper gastrointestinal tract contains plastic load weighing around 76.7 g, which is the most crucial factor in their consummation.
- A report conducted on the beaches of New Zealand revealed the early death of prions (bird). A high concentration of pellets could be found on the beach, as a result of which hungry prions mistook these for food and ate these. Unable to ingest and assimilate these pellets passing through their proventriculi and gizzards cause their premature death.
- Another research conducted by Socioeconomic Status disclosed that about 5 lakh 80 thousand pieces of plastics per sq. km. were discovered in the second most treacherous ocean, the Atlantic. Chemicals from these plastics get leaked into the water as well as the atmosphere that disrupts the simple food chain of marine animals.
- Scripps Institution of Oceanography, based on its study on 141 mesopelagic fishes, stated that 9.2% of the plastic content was found accumulated in their stomachs. These fishes ingest around 12,000-24,000 of plastics per year.
Now let’s have a detailed look at the negative impacts of plastic wastes on the environment, a subject that has gained serious attention in the last few years but needs some further clarifications.
Table of Contents
Plastic Bags and the Environment
For a long time, plastic bags were used as free equipment for carrying your needy items, let it be grocery items, health products, or electronic products. It’s only recently that the harmful effects of using plastic bags have been recognized, and so government imposed some fee to discourage people from using plastic bags.
So why are plastic bags unhealthy for the environment? The most straightforward answer is that plastic is a non-biodegradable product that takes around 400 years to biodegrade and thus adversely affects the environment in the following ways –
- According to Natural Environment, around 100000 sea turtles and marine animals die every year because they mistake these bags for food or get entangled in them.
- In Australia, approximately 50 million plastic garbage bags are disposed of in the Pacific ocean, and this “plastic soup” patch constitutes nearly 80% of the Pacific ocean.
The best strategy to reduce the effects of these bags is to use reusable bags that can save up to 11 barrels of crude oil, from which plastics are obtained.
Why are plastic bottles harmful to the environment?
Like plastic bags, plastic water bottles also is widely used by everyone without knowing the significant impact it causes on the environment after being thrown by them; This causes the following harmful effects on the environment –
- Approximately 46000 pieces of plastic water bottles cover the oceanic and sea surface that inhibits the sunlight reach deep under the sea leading to the destruction of many marine animals and plants which use sunlight for photosynthesizing their food.
- The requirement of trucks for importing waters from overseas, followed by transportation and delivery in the US, causes a great and hazardous environmental impact.
- With so much production of plastic water bottles, sometimes landfills face the problem of overflowing, which then requires a high amount of fossil fuels for production.
Although Environmental Protection Agency, EPA declared that tap water is safe for drinking purposes, 90000 plastic water bottles are being used every minute in the United States alone. 80% of these water bottles end up overflowing landfills, thus disrupting the ecosystem and killing animals.
How Plastic Cups Affect our Environment?
Do you know that every year we produce and throw away billions of disposable cups? Yes, billions!
Coffee cups are the major source of pollution in our environment as they contain a plastic paste known as polyethylene that prevents them from being recycled.
Most plastic cups are not degradable, thus dumping them pollutes the environment. It destroys the quality of soil rich in humus, by inhibiting proper absorption of water and minerals and cannot be degraded by microorganisms. Several other methods used for plastic disposals like incineration, release harmful fumes and toxic gases like carbon monoxide into the environment.
The most viable option to prevent our environment is to implement and follow the reuse, recycle, reduce model that has been started to be employed in supermarkets and cafeterias.
How plastic pollution as a whole affect our environment?
- Effect on wildlife –
Plastic pollution has the potency to contaminate animals leading to detrimental (harmful) causes for next trophic level food supplies. As explained in the book “Introduction to Marine Biology“ (combined efforts of George Karleskint, Richard Turner, JamesSmall, and Richard Lee Turner), plastics alone can pose the single greatest menace to flora and fauna. Once eaten, it leads to starvation, suffocation, and finally, the death of animals as it blocks their digestive tract.
- Effect on humans –
Several plastic statues contain harmful and deadly compounds such as phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), Bisphenol A (BPA). Even though they are not safe for consumption, they are widely used in food packaging, bottles, perfumes, cosmetics, bottles, perfumes, and cosmetics.
Their large dosage destroys the endocrine system. In females, it inhibits the release of a female’s hormone called estrogen. These hormone-disturbing chemicals can adversely damage the immune and reproductive systems of women as well as children.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of plastic, we can still take some major precautions and adopt several strategies to minimize the use of plastics and make our ailing planet green and healthy to some extent. These measures include the use of reusable and recyclable products instead of using plastics for everything. One can adopt the four powerful mantras – “REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, RESTORE”
If you have made it to the end of this article, we hope you are looking at the plastic water bottles, cups, or bags bought from the supermarket in your rooms differently. We hope that we’ve inspired you and changed your view of perception by trying some more environmentally friendly products.