Plastic is such an important part of our daily life that 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 will briefly explain what will happen if we don’t stop plastic pollution.
What is single-use plastic?
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 8 billion 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.
Surprisingly, only 9% of the plastic generated is recycled.
Why should we rethink the use of plastic bags?
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!Tweet
More than a hundred billion plastic bags are disposed of every year in America and 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.
Before we dig deeper, I wanted to share with you some alternatives to plastic I started to use recently in an effort to help to reduce our plastic footprint.
Last update on 2020-10-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
What will happen if we don’t stop plastic pollution?
this chart shows the Plastic production rate by 2050
Another reason why we need to stop plastic pollution, that if the trend continues to grow, there will be twelve billion metric tons of plastic to be disposed of in landfills by 2050.
We know that in this day and age, plastics are everywhere. They are hard to get rid of. But we have to keep trying. Check out this blog when Eva, one of our authors’ team, tried to go 1 day without a single use of plastic.
Read more about 13 reasons why plastic is bad and some product ideas that can replace plastic.
Plastics are non-biodegradable
Once introduced in the environment, plastic remains there forever. It breaks down into smaller fragments. It also releases toxic chemicals that may harm aquatic life.
Plastic in the oceans
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.
With the growing trend of plastic production and use, 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.
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 favourite food is jellyfish. They have been reported to eat floating plastic bags instead of jellyfish.
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.
Plastics Impact on humans
It’s time to face the fact. Humans seek the temporary benefit of plastic ignoring their long-term consequences. Every year, an average person consumes approximately 70,000 microplastics. A study conducted in 2018 found that 93% of bottled water had microplastics in it and the worst sample was of Nestle Pure Life. Contrary to its claim that the water is processed through a 12 step quality system.
For more information on the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment, aquatic life, and human health in this article about why plastic is bad.
How can we help reduce plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution can be targeted both on individual and government level. Here are some tips that we can follow to reduce plastic pollution individually:
- Look for a plastic alternative.
- Use reusable shopping bags that replace paper and plastic. These are usually made from renewable resources.
- If there’s no other potential alternate for plastic bags, make sure to recycle them instead of throwing them. Though recycling isn’t considered a viable option since China’s decision to stop receiving plastic waste for recycling from the US back in 2017. In fact, all the plastic waste that was sent to China was either buried or burnt rather than being converted to some new product.
- 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 toothbrush.
- Most importantly, research and be informed. Know about the recyclable products available in your town.
Government participation to stop plastic pollution
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.
Final thoughts on What will happen if we don’t stop plastic pollution
Looking ahead, the end of ‘plastic age’ doesn’t seem to be approaching any time soon. But we can help make the world plastic-free 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!