The most critical and common pollution of the century should be plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is a big question, which is currently in front of the world. Due to the non-biodegradable nature of plastics, it is quite dangerous to pollute our environment with plastics. Due to its properties, plastics gained widespread use very easily and quickly throughout the world.
About plastic pollution
This topic is about plastic pollution, its causes and effects. Plastic pollution has given rise to many concerns all over the planet and has even attacked the health of the living person to a great extent. By the time we realized and came to know of its consequences, we were in a position that we were not getting rid of it.
Let us use our imagination. Imagine that your house is in a litter heap, a large landfill, smoky, smelly, hot, and difficult to breathe because your nose can never adapt to the persistent smell. You have to source your food from your environment, only use what is available. Many times, as with litter, you cannot decide what is edible and what is not. But that’s all you’ve got and you have to. You can have the most beautiful house but you cannot grow a leaf because the ground is barren. In this world, some millions live under such horrific conditions. But if you are reading this, then you have to use your imagination.
You will not wish such a fate even on your biggest enemy. But we humans have brought these conditions to millions of living beings who cannot speak for themselves. Each one of us is responsible. No one can wash their hands with this inexplicable cruelty.
What is plastic pollution?
Plastic is a beautifully lightweight, durable, moldable, versatile material that has transformed the life of man in many ways. Every object that appears around you has a plastic element. It is utilized widely as packaging material, disposable goods fishing nets, food wrappers, and containers, etc.
The plastic is so durable that it is non-biodegradable, meaning it will not break into simple compounds and be absorbed as beneficial components in air-water or soil. A large piece of plastic will only break into small pieces such as confetti or pieces of very thin vermicelli. These will last around the next 1000 years and more.
Common forms of plastics are polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density and low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene, polystyrene, and polysilaterates.
Plastic is generated entirely on land and 80% of the waste is disposed of on land. We see all parts of our cities, drainage, water sources and are littered with plastic bags, containers, and residues of consumer goods. The remaining 20% is dumped at sea.
But about 80 percent of all the world’s plastic waste goes into the oceans. The reason for this is that plastic and its pieces are carried around by water runoff and wind and go into the oceans. In the sea, they are transported to distant beaches by the currents of the sea even in uninhabited islands.
Adding plastic to various components of our environment and the harmful effect caused by its non-biodegradability is called plastic pollution.
Causes of plastic pollution
It was Captain Charles Moore in 1997 who first publicly reported plastic swirling locations in the Pacific Ocean, which brought media attention to the incident. By then the world was following a policy of “out of sight, out of mind”. These large masses were called great plastic waste patches or gyrus. A gyre is a wide circular feature made up of ocean currents that spiral around a central point. The North Pacific Geer is a large patch of sea litter with a diameter of 100 miles in the central North Pacific Ocean. At least in every ocean, there are similar piles of garbage.
However, large masses such as these are often seen to have an extent of plastic waste below the surface of the water. It forms marine debris that is defined as manufactured or processed solid waste material that enters the ocean-atmosphere from any source and remains here. The sea environment includes beaches, coasts, oceans, seabed, inland waterways. The type and intensity of plastic pollution depend on ocean currents and patterns, climate and tides, proximity to urban centers, industrial and recreational areas, shipping lanes, and commercial fishing grounds.
In addition, ships have water dumping activities, including small electric and yachts, large transport ships and cargo-carrying people, offshore drilling rigs and platforms, fishing piers.
The components of marine debris are plastic, glass, metal, Styrofoam, rubber, fishing gear, and degrading utensils. The top three items were cigarette butts, plastic bags, and food wrappers and containers.
Effects of plastic pollution
Most plastic debris sinks into the ocean floor and infects it. Minute pieces float in the water and are mistakenly used as food by marine mammals such as whales and sea lions, birds, and even zooplankton. Zooplankton is the smallest creatures in the oceans, which are the source of food for many fish and mammals living here. Zooplankton includes the formation of rotifers, copepods, krill, eggs, and larvae of large animals and microorganisms such as dinoflagellates and other protozoans.
Large hungry animals wander off with plastic. After a while, they accumulate in the digestive system. The animals are then put to death because they cannot swallow anymore because their system is already filled with plastic.
Many parent birds have to retrieve food for their hungry children. They shrug to death as they try to take out the plastic debris.
Millions of birds and big mammals are found dead with the rotting of their corpses, but the ingested plastic in their bellies is still intact. The birds are seen on the beaches sorting through various colored plastic pieces and taken out which is similar to their food.
All this makes the oceans a big bowl of garbage soup and mankind can call itself innocent when innocent creatures are forced to live and to survive in such environments.
Getting entangled in the plastic debris of untouched fishing nets is a serious pain that is put through these animals. All animals such as sea lions, dolphin, sea turtle, shark, crocodile, seabirds, and crabs are caught in them. They die of hunger or survive and then their wounds become infected leading to death.
Some plastics excrete toxic substances such as BPA (bisphenol A) as they rot. Some plastics are shown to decompose very rapidly in low temperatures. Even if they undergo photodegradation by sunlight or disintegrate naturally, they remain small pieces of plastic.
Plastic debris in the sea acts as a sponge for other contaminants and when these chemicals soak, they become doubly poisonous.
As mentioned earlier, due to plastic buoyancy, they can be carried across the ocean very easily to places far away from their original source.
When all this is happening in the oceans, is it possible that humans are not affected? Plastics and their leached toxins have entered the food chain. Fish and other mammals are commonly consumed and the same toxins enter our body. Asthma and allergic reactions in almost every part of the body and from diseases to all types of cancer; Nobody is sparing us.
Premature death, short lifespan, birth defects, thyroid disturbances are attributed to the plastic toxic product bisphenol-A.
Ecosystem changes as species are wiped out and exotic species become environmentally friendly.
Coral reefs that are actually growing organisms are also affected by fat. The reason for the plastic debris is the physical breakdown and suffocation of these coral reefs, due to which the sunlight does not reach them.
How to reduce Plastics Pollution?
- Stop using bottled water: Globally, all bottled water comes in a plastic package. This water if refined and filed in plastic bottles for easy storage. Despite being convenient, these bottles tend to pile up after use. This can increase pollution. The use of bottled water should be banned, rather than the widespread use of stainless bottles.
- Carry your own shopping bag: If we can all make our own bags preferably made of cloth or recycled paper while going for shopping, then the use of plastic bags will reduce drastically. Foldable and reusable bags can be kept regularly in cars and handbags to avoid plastic bags altogether.
- Use reusable containers: It is always advised not to keep food items in the refrigerator. It is most suitable to store them in glass containers or steel containers. Moving leftovers or food from restaurants can be in reusable or recycled containers to reduce the use of plastic containers.
- Stop ice cream cups: The option to eat ice cream in cup ice cream can be avoided. This step can reduce plastic pollution.
- Buy milk in glass bottles: Buying milk and yogurt in reusable glass bottles or disposable paper bags is always a better option.
- Avoid plastic spoons and cutlery: All these plastic spoons and cutlery should be prevented completely as they are the most serious pollutants. Mostly all these are for one-time use and are usually piled up with garbage. A set of wood or steel cutlery may be used instead.
- Buy in bulk: all cleaning products, hardware products; Grocery, etc. come in plastic packages. Therefore, if these are purchased in bulk, the packing material can be minimized.
- Return used containers: When we buy some groceries or some fruits directly from farmers, these will be plastic containers. Therefore, if it is returned to farmers or manufacturers after use, plastic can be used sparingly.
- More Recycle: Mostly all plastics can be recycled. But most of us do not attempt to do this. It is easy to throw away with the garbage. If we separate all the plastic waste and give it to the recycling industry, then plastic pollution can be reduced significantly.
- Repair items: It is common practice to throw away something that is lying idle or old in the house. It is always better to repair than to buy new stuff with plastic packing.
- Use waxworms as plastic biodegradation.
Interesting Facts About Plastic Pollution
- Millions of plastic bags are used worldwide.
- Plastic does not corrode easily.
- More than 1 lakh seabirds were killed due to plastic ingestion.
- The amount of plastic thrown globally can complete up to 4 times the circle of the Earth.
- Plastic pollution is rising by the minute.
- More than 50 percent of plastic pollution has flowed into the sea.
- Plastic chemicals can be consumed by the body.
- More than 95 percent of the plastic produced was still present.
- About 1,20,000 tonnes of plastic were dumped by the fishing industry.
- In the oceans, plastic splits into smaller parts.
- About 24 gallons of water are used to make plastic bottles.
- Generally, a plastic cup takes more than 70 years to rot.
- More than 24 million gallons of oil are used to produce at least one billion plastic bottles.
- Recycling plastics use much less energy than making new plastics.
- Many species of fish, other marine animals, and mammals are killed due to plastic pollution.
- The plastic floating on the sea surface will be about 50000 pieces every square mile.
- Wool blankets and other fabrics can be made using recycled plastic bottles.
- According to research, it is believed that by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic than fish.
- More than 85 percent of plastic pollution in the river, sea, and oceans comes mainly from the land.
- Humans inadvertently consume bits and micro-plastics.
- More than 60 percent of plastics thrown are usually used only once.
- 35 billion plastic bottles are thrown annually by Americans.
- These plastics contain toxic elements and chemicals that can alter hormones and have negative effects on the health of humans.
- Some countries like China, Ireland, and Bangladesh have already banned the use of plastic.
- The global use of plastics is around 200 million tonnes.
- A jug made of plastic usually takes one million years to rot.
- The largest ocean waste is in the North Pacific, off the coast of California. It is noted that ocean floating plastics twice the size of Texas.
- Recycled plastics can be used for new purposes such as garbage bins, playground equipment, park benches, road-wiring, etc.
What lies before us is a path we must follow so that the mistakes made so far can be corrected. This could not be easier. Hard decisions have to be made. But we should stick well to these habits, unlike the New Year resolutions, until they become habits because they will bring about the changes we need. It is a Herculean task for the management of plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is a global issue that should be given almost priority.
If all the above steps are followed, plastic pollution can be reduced significantly. 3R that is reduce, reuse, and recycle must be practiced effectively. More people should be made aware of the issues caused by plastic pollution. The government should enact strict laws regarding the use of plastic. Dumping plastics should be banned completely. All citizens of a country should resolve not to throw away the plastics and give them to recycling centers. This in turn can save the environment and natural biodiversity.