Humans have only been mass producing plastic for the last six decades. But in that time, we’ve created more than eight billion tonnes of the stuff, with most of it being dumped in our oceans or going straight to landfills. We’re drowning in plastic and it’s having a catastrophic effect on our environment – here’s what you need to know about plastic pollution.
What is plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution is the of plastic objects and particles (e.g. plastic bottle, bag and micro-bead). It’s the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment which negatively affects all living things and their habitat. Plastic pollution comes in many forms: Plastic Litter, Marine Debris and Plastic Particle Pollution, to name the most common. Although there is plastic pollution on land, more of these waste products end up in the sea. It has reached every corner of our planet – from the highest mountains to the deepest sea. That’s not an exaggeration. The water brings the plastic waste even in places where there are no humans.
Side Effects of Plastic on Human Health
The chemicals used in the production of plastic are toxic and detrimental to the human body. The plastic can be dangerous in multiple ways. Chemicals like lead, cadmium and mercury directly can come in contact with the human. They have been found in many fish in the ocean.
These toxins can cause cancers, congenital disabilities, immune system problems and childhood development issues. The other toxins like BPA or health-bisphenol-A are found in plastic bottles or food packaging materials. When the polymer chains of BPA are broken down and enter the human body through contaminated water or fish, it could lead to some serious damage to our body. The BPA can decrease thyroid hormone receptor which can lead to hypothyroidism.
Effective Solutions to Plastic Pollution
1. Shop Friendly
Plastic bags were once a modern convenience but can be efficiently replaced by reusable bags, many of which fold up compactly to be portable.
Just think about how many bags you typically carry out of a grocery store, and multiply that by the number of times you visit the grocery shop. That’s a lot of plastic! Carry a bag and always reuse plastic bags as much as possible if you have them.
2. Recycle Everything
Try and select items that come in non-plastic recycled and recyclable packaging, to do your best to handle items that can’t be reused properly. Check everything before you put it in the trash, as more and more items are able to be recycled these days.
Remember that because plastic doesn’t break down easily (if ever), recycling plastic means that it is still plastic, just being used for a different purpose. Therefore, you’re not actually reducing plastic amounts or exposure, even in the recycling process.
3. Make Better Choices at Home
You can make a lot of difference by making green choices at home, and you must move away from the throwaway culture. Choose products with less plastic packaging.
Avoid cosmetics and personal hygiene products having microbeads, the little dots in your toothpaste, and facial scrubs, which are actually a type of microplastic.
New research shows increasing damage from microbeads to marine life and human health. Avoid clothes that have synthetic microfibers. When these items are washed, they often release microfibers into the water, finally making their way to oceans, and then ingested by fish and other marine creatures.