Till today, many of us have seen the enormous amount of documentation on the internet and media about the effects of excessive reliance on plastic on oceans. Quite recently, a Sperm Whale too was found dead on a beach in Spain after ingesting sixty-four pounds of plastic. Experts concluded that the whale had died of gastric shock because of the ingestion of plastic pollution. The presence of plastic near water bodies is one of the biggest threats to wildlife all over the world. Many animals either end up getting trapped in the trash or ingest huge amounts of plastic and it’s by-products that lead to causing abnormalities or their death.
Even after constant recycling efforts and guidelines to ban plastic, our plastic use keeps on increasing. A recent study published in Science estimates that the total amount of plastic that enters the oceans weighs about 12.7 million tons and studies suggest that it will increase at least thrice by the time we reach 2025. Even though the UK has observed a decline in the number of plastic bottles and bags in their coastal areas, other parts of the ocean remain red zones suggesting a tremendous increase in Plastic pollution. A huge amount of plastic floats in the oceans and it comes from multiple sources like nets, floats, buoys, construction materials, packing straps, etc. If we think about it, the dead animals do not only symbolize the growth in Plastic pollution but they symbolize something larger. When there were lesser people, when we had fewer things, we made tools out of things that we considered valuable. We did not discard them and even if we did, we might have been excused for thinking there was an ‘away’- a place where we could throw away things that we no longer required. But the photographs of these dead sea birds and animals show us that there is no such thing as ‘away’ anymore.
However, this does not mean that plastic is pure evil. It is something that we invented and chose to use. Early plastic like celluloid relieved pressure on animals that are now endangered. Plastic also made us fly and walk on the moon quite literally. But plastic food packaging is a big achievement but at the same time one of our biggest challenges. On one hand, it slows down spoilage, reduces food-generated illnesses and lets us transport food from afar. But disposable packaging also generates an enormous amount of waste that is later on discarded as litter that ends up in either landfills or near water bodies. The unique problem with Plastic waste is its low density. It allows the Plastic to float and make its way easily to rivers and storm drains that move it to the ocean and that’s how it becomes a global problem.
To counter these problems, biodegradable plastics are being developed which are predicted to have lower side effects as they use the natural decay cycle of ecosystems. Only if we start calculating the ecological cost of plastic disposal, objects will become more valuable and worth reusing. We can try to make durable plastic products with more care and of better quality so that they are worth reusing, returning, and even passing down to further generations. It is clear that we’ll need a well-built plan which might not be very simple to carry out. Therefore we must always remember that we’re responsible for what we consume and what we waste.