It is no secret that the planet is currently in a plastic crises. In fact, the planet is so overwhelmed by the increasing prevalence of plastic pollution that it is losing its ability to survive. This is why pollution caused by plastic is considered one of the most critical environment issues we are faced with today.
How did we allow this to happen?
Plastic is one of the most essential innovations to modern society. Without plastic we wouldn’t have developed the ability to travel to the moon, medical equipment, machinery such as cars and other transportation and safety equipment, not to mention the convenience of heading to the shops to buy food ready to eat. However, what may have been seen as a convenience then, has lead to inconveniences now.
Unfortunately the convenience that plastic offers has consumed us. Globally, approximately 380 million tons of plastic is produced every year, with approximately 50% being used for single-use purposes. Which should not come to too much of a surprise; a walk through your local supermarket will demonstrate this fact.
It is important to mention here that only 9% of plastic waste produced globally is recycled. So where is the other 91%? Firstly, landfill. Disposal sights containing all our waste on land. Land that could be used to repopulate flora but instead is emitting greenhouse gases and contaminating the surrounding soil and water ways; consequently interrupting ecosystems and limiting the worlds biodiversity. Once in landfill, plastic waste can take up to 400 years to break down. A large proportion of plastic does not stay in landfill, instead it ends up in the ocean. It is estimated that more than 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. This may be directly or indirectly a result of humans with some of this plastic waste transporting to the ocean through waterways or wind transfer. Once there, plastic can either remain in coastal waters or be caught up in ocean currents which transport it around the world.
Hitting the big issues
It is easy to understand the harm items like plastic bags or bottles can do to sea life. But the biggest problem with plastic in the ocean is microplastic. Sunlight, sea water and wind are the perfect conditions to allow plastic to break into smaller particles called microplastics. Microplastics have been found in every area of the planet, including the digestive systems of approximately 700 species in the ocean and even in our drinking water!
Millions of animals around the world are killed by plastics every year. Whether it be through entanglement or ingestion, I think we can all agree that no matter how these animals are dying… the quantity is too large.
The extraction, transportation and pollution of plastic waste has known human health impacts in systems such as the reproductive, immune and neurological leading to common diseases such as cancer.
Not all hope is lost
There are actions that, if we all do collectively, will positively impact our environment! Such as:
- Reducing the amount of plastic you purchase. Try shopping at bulk food stores, eating more fresh, rather than packaged, food, and opting for the products that have minimal to no packaging.
- Doing your research. Check labels, compare products and learn about how your products have been developed. For example, reading the labels on your clothes before purchasing them can help make an informed decision (are they made from synthetic fibres or natural fibres?).
- Investing in reusable items and taking care of them. Lucky we know an online store where you can purchase these items… shameless plug, I know.
- Making more food from scratch. All food can be made without plastic. WHAT! Pasta, noodles, sauces, dips, crackers, everything that is normally packaged in plastic can be made from scratch. It’s just about finding out how.
- Buying second hand. This is a great way to save your pocket money too.
- Inspiring others. Teach your children and the people around you as you go! This will only work if we all work together.
Plastic-free July is a great initiative that aims to help educate and encourage people to adopt a plastic-free lifestyle. Time to get involved! If you have any questions or are not sure where to start please do not hesitate to contact us by commenting on this post or sending us a message on Instagram. WE GOT THIS!
Plastic and Human Health: A Lifecycle Approach to Plastic Pollution | Center for International Environmental Law. (2021). Retrieved 27 June 2021, from https://www.ciel.org/project-update/plastic-and-human-health-a-lifecycle-approach-to-plastic-pollution/
Plastic pollution facts and information. (2021). Retrieved 27 June 2021, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution
Plastic Pollution Facts | PlasticOceans.org/the-facts. (2021). Retrieved 27 June 2021, from https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/