All of us are well aware of what is plastic. We also know it’s benefits and it’s ill-effects. It serves as both friend and foe.
In this blog we will focuses on “plastic as a foe”. Most of the plastics degrade very slowly, as their chemical structure renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation. According to a survey report, a billion ton of plastic waste has been discarded since 1950s. Another report suggests human production of 8.3 billion tons of plastic of which 6.3 billion tons is waste, with a recycling rate of only 9%.
Plastic pollution can unfavourably affect land, waterways and oceans. The litter that is being delivered into the oceans is toxic to marine biodiversity and humans. Marine biodiversity is worst hit. Humans are also affected by plastic pollution. It disrupts the hormone level within individuals.
Around one million animal and plant species now fall under the category of being extinct. This statistics is more than ever before in human history and the reason cited is plastic pollution. Reports by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that the world’s waters and the wildlife they hold are under great stress because of similar reasons.
Plastic materials in all shapes and sizes are omnipresent in our seas and oceans and are the worst form of marine litter because they are non-biodegradable.
Plastic refuse is one of the most pervasive types of pollution.Their durability and buoyancy allows them to be carried far from their sources.Marine debris – plastics, metals, glass, and other solid waste materials that enter the ocean environment – can be found virtually everywhere in the ocean.
- Marine plastic pollution has effected over 267 speciesworldwide as a result of –
- and suffocation
Indigestion has caused many marine species to loose their lives. This has lead some species to go extinct.
The most recent case is that of Coelacanth.The endangered Coelacanth now joins a heart-breaking group of marine animals threatened by the increasing amount of plastic debris in our oceans.In Southeast Asia, a number of endangered marine animals killed with large amounts of plastic in their stomachs have been reported by the media.A green turtle was found dead in Chanthaburi, Thailand, with plastic shreds from fishing gear, rubber bands and other marine debris in its stomach. A conclusive cause for their deaths is indigestion due to plastic debris, as per a report.
Entanglement is also a significant threat to marine species. For example, up to 40,000 fur seals are killed each year when they get tangled in debris.Entanglement affects nearly all groups of marine vertebrates.Lost fishing gear and related refuse in particular is a major issue.
Our oceanographic modelling suggests that these nets drift over large areas of the region, likely impacting six of the world’s seven marine turtle species which occur there. Many other species are probably also affected, but decay before the nets wash ashore and are found.
Besides entanglement and indigestion, there are other reasons too that severely affect the marine animals.
Plastic entering the food chain
Plastics bring toxins into the food chain. For starters, it is contaminating the air because of plastic microparticles are washed away into the sewage system. From there, they might end up in the sea or in agricultural fields as fertiliser. Thus, entering the food chain. There are chances that we are consuming plastic indirectly, especially microplastics which are pieces of plastic broken down. Many animals living in the sea like the plankton regularly consume microplastics carelessly disposed in the water bodies. These particles may also be contaminated when they exposed to water. By being consumed by marine animals, these harmful microplastics enter the human food chain.
Tackling The Problem
Education – Incentives – Regulation
Educational tools, such as the plastics identification code on bottles, provided essential knowledge for the public and increased participation. Bottle deposits, an economic incentive, resulted in a 75% reduction in losses into the environment. Regulations, such as recent prohibitions on disposable drink bottles may further reduce the problem.
However, our lack of information makes it hard to target education, incentives and regulation. Linking plastic in the environment to particular factories, stores, fishers or consumers is currently impossible.
Human behaviour needs to change from the current throwaway culture being status quo, and accountability is a fundamental ingredient in this change.
- More than 50 nations – from the Galapagos Islands to India and from Rwanda to China – are taking action to reduce plastic pollution.
- India’s Prime Minister pledged to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022, with an immediate ban in urban Delhi.
- Many other European countries have introduced a levy on plastic bags, while China, Kenya and Morocco have implemented a ban on thin plastic bags.
- San Diego has joined a growing number of cities to ban containers made of polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam—the Dow Chemical trademark name for extruded polystyrene. The ban includes food and drink containers, egg cartons, ice chest coolers, aquatic toys for swimming pools, and mooring buoys and navigation markers.
- Two hundred and fifty organizations responsible for 20 percent of the plastic packaging produced around the world have committed to reducing plastic waste. The initiative is called the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.
“Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it,”
-says Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.