Plastic is such an important element in our daily life. It can be seen everywhere around us. It was first produced in 1907. We can say that plastics have changed human civilization completely.
But with all the advantages plastic offers, it brings along a huge problem of pollution that has raised global concern. This article goes over some facts about plastic that shows why we need to reduce our plastic consumption.
Plastic Pollution Facts 2021
1. We dump plastics into the toilet
A survey estimated that around one-third of us are flushing those things in the toilet that we are not supposed to throw. These things include cigarette butts, cotton butts, condoms, etc. This debris not at all disappears as you might have imagined.
These dumped plastics leach toxic chemicals into the water, where they ultimately contaminate it.
Think about this example; when a magician puts a pigeon in his hat and makes it disappear, it does not simply vanish. It goes into some secret box from where it is not visible to us. Similarly, the things you flush into the toilet, considering it your bin, do not simply die out. It becomes part of the oceans resulting in plastic pollution.
2. Plastic Is Cheap And That Is A Problem
In general, you do not think that something cheap is bad, right? But the problem is that plastic is so cheap that it is extremely difficult to convince manufacturers to switch to alternative biodegradable containers.
The cost of these alternatives may vary, but having biodegradable packaging can be 2 to 10 times more expensive than plastic.
3. We use plastics unconsciously
Plastics are as common as dirt. We use it in many forms. Take a look at the following few examples:
- Plastic paper bags
- Water bottles
- Disposable coffee cups
- Plastic cans
- Packaging wrappers etc.
The list is not limited to the above-mentioned things. There are various other things that we use in our daily lives that contain plastic and that must be enough to compel us in looking for solutions to plastic pollution.
4. More than 50% of plastics are single-use
As defined by the UN Environment Report in 2018, Single-use plastic is plastic intended to be used only once before it is recycled or disposed of. Some commonly used single-use plastic products are:
- Plastic drinking bottles
- Plastic caps and lids
- Cigarette butts
- Food packaging/wrapping material
- Take-away containers
- Grocery/shopping bags
It has been estimated that the production of plastic has increased three times since the 90s. Today, more than 300 million tons of plastic are being generated each year. Half of them are single-use plastic that becomes trash after used once. The damage caused to the environment, human health, and marine life are irreversible.
5. the average use of Plastic bags is 12 mins
Every minute, about two million plastic bags are used around the globe. And the average use of these bags is twelve minutes. Yes, it is used for just twelve minutes and takes thousands of years to decompose!
More than a hundred billion plastic bags are disposed of every year in America. Only a small fraction of these is recycled. Because plastic is not biodegradable, it becomes a part of the environment eventually where it pollutes the soil and water.
6. there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by 2050
If the trend continues to grow, there will be twelve billion metric tons of plastic to be disposed of in landfills by 2050.
7. Plastics Take Hundreds Of Years To Decompose
Once introduced into the environment, plastic remains there forever. It breaks down into smaller fragments. It also releases toxic chemicals that may harm aquatic life.
Plastic products, especially disposable plastics, such as bags and straws, do not degrade completely and remain in the environment for hundreds (even thousands) of years.
Instead of completely degrading, most plastics break down slowly, throwing small pieces of plastic into the environment where wildlife can ingest them.
This leads to the contamination of groundwater sources, as well as rivers and streams.
8. 73% of all the waste on beaches is plastic
That means approximately 165 million tons of plastic waste floats around the ocean. It is like a garbage truck loaded with plastic being dumped in the ocean every minute. And the cost of removing plastic pollution from the oceans was reported to be 2.5 trillion dollars in 2019.
9. There Will Be More Plastic In The Ocean Than Fish
It is believed that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the ocean. According to recent studies, all known species of sea turtles, 54% of marine mammals, and more than 50% of seabirds have been either entangled by plastic ropes and nets or have ingested plastic fragments and microplastics.
This is the reason behind the plastic impact on the world’s food supply by blocking the digestive tract of species resulting in starvation and death due to malnutrition.
The affected species include seals, whales, dolphins, sea lions, and many others.
10. Animals Confuse Plastic With Food
Another reason urges us to stop plastic pollution, that over 99% of seabird species are predicted to have ingested plastic by 2050. You can imagine the growing rate of plastic ingestion in seabirds by the fact that it was found in the stomach of 5% of seabirds in 1960.
In 2010, this raised to over 80%. More than one million seabirds are killed by plastic every year.
Plastic bags are also a danger to mammals that are often mistaken by them for food. One such example is sea turtles. Their favorite food is jellyfish. They have been reported to eat floating plastic bags instead of jellyfish.
The strays of plastic floating in the water are killing the creatures that inhabit the ocean. Fish and other creatures living in the water usually confuse plastic for real food.
Marine life ingests plastic particles. And, as we produce more single-use plastics, the problem is only getting worse.
Plastic can also be found washing ashore, years after being thrown into the sea. Its durability as a material makes it almost impossible to eliminate from the environment.
This can have a striking impact on the pristine natural beaches and the environment at large.
11. Plastic Affects Coral Reefs
According to a survey done on the Asian Pacific region coral reef, more than 11.1 billion plastic products were seen entangled in corals. And it is predicted that this rate will rise to more than 15 billion by 2025. These plastic items inhibit the oxygen and light to reach coral reefs. Bacteria and viruses also invade due to the release of chemical toxins by plastics.
12. Plastics Impact On Humans
Humans seek the temporary benefit of plastic ignoring their long-term consequences. Every year, an average person consumes approximately 70,000 microplastics.
Plastic releases toxic chemicals. These chemicals find their way to the blood and tissue of almost all humans. Being exposed to the toxic chemicals released links to cancer, birth defects, immunity deficiency, endocrine disorders, and other diseases.
13. only 9% of the plastic generated is recycled
Coal, oil, and natural gas are products commonly used in the manufacture of plastics. It is very hard and expensive to recycle plastics. Plus this technology still not available in most of the countries around the world. It is easier for un-rich countries to throw them away in landfills and oceans. Ignoring the environmental effect.
14. Plastic Threatens Wildlife
Wild animals get entangled in plastic. They consume it or confuse it for food and feed it to their offspring.
Plastics are scattered in extremely remote areas of the earth. In our oceans alone, plastic waste exceeds zooplankton in a ratio of 36: 1.
15. Plastic Poisons Our Food Chain
Even the plankton, the smallest creature in our oceans, eats microplastics and absorb their dangerous chemicals.
Small pieces of plastic displace the algae needed to maintain a larger marine life that feeds them.
16. To Abate Plastic Cost Billions
Everything suffers (tourism, leisure, business, human health, animals, fish, and birds) because of plastic pollution. The financial damage inflicted permanently is invaluable.
17. They Are Made From Non-Sustainable Products
Coal, oil, and natural gas are products commonly used in the manufacture of plastics. Currently, public opinion on non-renewables in the energy and transport sectors is at best.
It is safe to assume that the majority of the population agrees that such use of coal, oil, and gas in the manufacture of plastics is unnecessary.
18. Sometimes plastics Are Invisible
Sometimes they are so small that you cannot see them without a microscope.
You may recall that the British government banned microplastics in toiletries such as toothpaste, body scrubs, and lotions.
The decision was made when sewers brought these microplastics into aquatic ecosystems and pose a high risk to local wildlife.
How Can We Help To Reduce Plastic Pollution
In 2017, a total of 193 countries committed to a plan to reduce plastic wastes. Indeed this is the best way to reduce plastic pollution as governments can pass laws and also has access to the vast number of resources.
But it doesn’t mean that at the individual level we cannot do anything. Here is the list of things that you can do to play your part in reducing plastic pollution.
Reduce Using Plastic
To effectively reduce plastic pollution, it is clearly necessary to reduce the use of plastic. It means changing our daily behaviors, and not to use plastics when there is a better alternative.
Reuse The Plastic You Used
If plastic is mismanaged or mishandled, it can cause contamination. As a result, many plastic items can be reused or used for different purposes.
Before throwing plastic objects, it is important to think about how they can be reused.
Plastic recycling involves collecting plastic waste and turning it into new products to reduce the amount of plastic in the waste stream. Throw them in the recycling bin if you can find one.
Another crucial solution is education to raise awareness and change behavior.
Use reusable food Wraps instead of Plastic Wraps
Beeswax Wrap is a food packaging material consisting of a coated fabric, more commonly cotton. It is made by infusing cotton with food-grade beeswax, resin, coconut oil, jojoba oil. The wrap is moldable and sticky.
It can be molded around containers or food products. Beeswax wrap is a sustainable and reusable alternative to plastic wraps.
Use Bamboo Plates For Travels And Family Gathering
Bamboo plates are made from natural wood and leaves. The bamboo plates and cutlery are not only environmentally friendly but also beautiful, flexible, and durable.
The bamboo plates and cutleries are perfect for wedding receptions, parties, or other events requiring waterproof, grease-proof, and 100% biodegradable dinnerware. Bamboo plates are the perfect alternative for everyone using disposable plastic plates.
Use Bamboo Toothbrush Instead
A bamboo toothbrush is similar to a plastic toothbrush. The difference is that the handle is made of bamboo instead.
Bamboo toothbrushes may seem like a new eco-friendly item, but in the real sense, they are the oldest type of toothbrushes before the plastic discovery.
Use Produce Bags For Shopping
This is another perfect alternative to plastics. Produce bags are a fairly new idea aimed at reducing the use of disposable plastics.
The produce bags are perfect for shopping and also very easy to transport. They are more durable and good for storing foods as compared to plastic bags.
Here are more tips
- Avoid the use of non-recyclable plastic bottles, straws, and containers.
- Reduce plastic packaging by buying items in bulk.
- Promote sustainable products, like reusable beeswax wrap and bamboo toothbrushes.
- Most importantly, research and be informed. Know about the recyclable products available in your town.
The role of government in this matter is crucial. A number of countries including China, France, and, Italy have banned plastic bags and levied taxes.
The government of Kenya has also introduced the law of four-month imprisonment and a fine of forty thousand dollars for citizens who produce, sell, or use plastic bags.
Bangladesh’s government banned plastic bags when they found that plastic bags clog the drains and make floods more severe.
Charging a purchasing fee on customers can also be a good option. A major 90% reduction in plastic bag usage was seen after introducing a tax of 15 cents in Ireland in a year. With the positive results, the government raised the tax to 22 cents.
Looking ahead, the end of the ‘plastic age’ doesn’t seem to be approaching any time soon. But we can help the environment with combined efforts.
We have a considerable amount of knowledge regarding environmental hazards and potential human health effects associated with plastic pollution. But, this is time to act.
Think green, act responsibly, buy better, and be the change!