Plastic Pollution: A Tainted World

 

Plastic pollution is not a new topic. Many people have experienced the effects of pollution around the world. And pollution is not just affecting our streets and cities, it’s affecting our wildlife and our earth, too, with trash drifting from cities to streets to beaches to oceans and usually-thriving ecosystems around the world. “Millions of animals are killed by plastic materials every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms,” says National Geographic.

Look up plastic pollution, and you will see the many heartbreaking pictures of sea turtles swathed in floating plastic bags, sharks cut open to reveal intact water bottles, and, of course, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a pile of trash drifting around the pacific ocean, and according to theoceancleanup.com, now covering about 1.6 million square kilometers, which is twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France.

Now, it’s not just other species that should be worried, it’s us humans, too. These plastics find their way into streams and rivers through littering and, according to CNN.com, you could be swallowing a credit card’s worth of microplastic weekly, meaning that yearly, you eat about 50,000 particles of microplastic, and you inhale about the same amount yearly, too.

Here’s one reason why it’s taking so long to try to get rid of plastic: plastic lasts a long period of time.  According to chariotenergy.com, plastic takes about 1,000 years to decompose fully. Plastic bags take up to 20 years, while plastic bottles take up to 450 years. In the United States alone, every year more than 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown away.

Now, the other reason is that the companies that produce plastic themselves, have you ever wondered why ads that tell you to recycle are funded by plastic companies? Well, if you really listen to the dialogue in the ads, they are placing the blame on the consumers (us) entirely, and not addressing the fact that they are the ones who supply us with these deadly items.

And while we may recycle and reuse and all of that, according to the EPA, of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, only 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted. This is because most items in the recycling bins get contaminated when they still have food in them (i.e., disposable plastic lunch boxes), because food can’t be recycled, or the items have other materials in them that can’t be recycled.

So, what do we do?

Well, don’t use single-use plastics, and instead use metal or paper straws instead of the plastic straws that most fast food restaurants provide. Opt for clothing made of cotton, hemp, wool, and other natural fibers as much as possible. Choose products that come packaged in natural materials such as bamboo, corn-starch, cocoabean shells, glass, grass paper, wood, cotton, hemp, algae, lignin, or mycelium (mushroom).

Don’t use products such as microbeads, and when you’re buying food, buy in bulk as much as possible. Don’t use plastic bags and instead use paper bags or ones from your home. Use reusable bags and containers when storing food, and most of all, help with beach cleanups and other types of cleanups.

We can try to save this earth; after all, we live on it.