Our busy lifestyles require instant products, which usually come in disposable materials such as plastic.
From water bottles to plastic bags and straws, plastic became so important in our daily lives that it’s difficult to understand how adversely it can affect us and our surroundings.
But the sad truth is this: All these plastic products contribute to the increasing volume of plastic pollution globally. Unfortunately, we produce almost a billion tons of plastic every three years. Can you imagine that?
And what makes it even worse is the fact that it takes around 450 to 1,000 years to degrade plastic waste.
A little more troubling fact: 50 percent of plastics are used only once before we throw it away. And our oceans become home to eight million tons of these plastics yearly.
So, a call to arms. This article will dig deeper into the adverse effects of plastic pollution on our lives, surroundings, and even economies. Also, discover the very simple things that you can do to help stop this global dilemma.
Adverse Effects of Plastic Pollution
In your next beach visit, try to take a look down at your feet. If you don’t notice a plastic cup, bottle cap or a chip bag along the shore or in the waters, you’re lucky.
But, even if you don’t, it still doesn’t erase the fact that plastic trash has been discovered at the depths of the world’s oceans and beaches – not even the Pacific Ocean was excused.
The thing is, plastic is everywhere. Even the most uninhabited parts of the earth have some form of plastic waste.
But we’ve particularly heard a tremendous public outcry on the ocean plastics pollution. Apparently, billions of pounds of the plastic we produce end up in our oceans – no wonder why it’s become a global crisis.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, our plastic waste is expected to overshadow the fish population by the year 2050. And this is just one of the troubling effects of plastic pollution. Unfortunately, there’s more.
Some of the extensive and enduring effects of the world’s plastic problem include the following:
Plastic pollution disturbs the food chain
Since plastic comes in sizes big and small, it can affect even the earth’s tiniest organisms like the plankton. Many larger animals depend on these organisms for food.
So, when they are poisoned by ingesting plastic waste, the bigger animals are more likely to be affected, too. This will create a domino effect, causing problems along the food chain.
And since plastic pollution is rampant in our oceans, the fish that we eat are also more likely to contain plastic.
Plastic waste pollutes lands, too
People who improperly dispose of their plastic waste above the ground contribute to land plastic pollution. Plastic deposits are blown from one place to another by the wind, increasing the litter in our lands and soils.
In many instances, these plastic wastes get stuck on trees or clog our drainage, causing yet another massive problem such as flooding.
When the plastic trash in landfills interacts with water, it also produces dangerous chemicals, which can degrade the quality of water as well.
Plastic waste contaminates the air
While it doesn’t seem logical, many people still burn plastic waste in the open air, which causes the production of harmful dioxins.
These poisonous compounds can negatively affect animal and human health, and may even cause respiratory diseases.
Plastic pollution kills wildlife
One of the most adverse effects of plastic pollution is wildlife destruction. Every year, tens of thousands of wildlife both in rural areas and marine environment die due to plastic ingestion.
For instance, whales, turtles, seals, and birds mistake plastic bags for food like jellyfish. Animals usually die when they ingest plastic because it hampers food digestion.
And since it takes up to 1,000 years to degrade plastic, the plastic ingested by the killed animals return to the marine environment, posing the risk of more wildlife deaths.
Plastic endangers human health
Plastic production involves various toxic chemicals. It comes as no surprise why a number of global health concerns have been associated with plastic use and exposure.
The production, storage, and disposal of plastics can be severely dangerous to all living organisms.
Plastic pollution is costly
Millions of dollars are needed every year to clean areas affected by plastic pollution. And not only that, but a significant amount of money is also being lost due to the death of animals, plants, and people harmed by this global disaster.
Land value also increases over time, making it more difficult to find a place to dump garbage. Many nations are unfortunately confronted by this problem.
Also, excess pollution harms tourism in many affected areas, creating a significant impact on various economies.
Ways to Solve the Plastic Pollution Problem
So, what can you do to help alleviate the world’s plastic pollution problem? Thankfully, there’s still hope, and all of us can play a part in reducing plastic waste. Below are some very simple ways you can create a difference:
Avoid single-use plastics
These single-use plastics can be anything from straws, and water bottles to plastic bags, cups, and take-out containers and utensils.
Refrain from utilizing plastic products that can be used only once and then disposed of right after usage. What you can do instead is buy and bring reusable versions of these items.
The next time you shop at your local grocery store, carry eco-friendly bags (eco bags) and prioritize the use of tumblers and metal utensils as much as possible.
Recycle, recycle, recycle
This cannot be emphasized enough. Plastics can be recycled, so put your imagination and creativity into something that will benefit the environment!
Today, only nine percent of plastic is recycled around the world. So, can you imagine now where the hefty 91 percent goes?
Recycling helps keep plastics away from our lands and waters and decrease the volume of new plastics to be circulated.
If you come across single-use plastics, use your insight and resourcefulness to turn these wastes into something valuable. You can also look for local recycling centers near you.
Join cleanup drives
Many cause-oriented organizations are running cleanup events, especially in beaches and waterways. You can even start the initiative and organize the cleanup activity yourself, and get your family and friends involved!
Participating in or organizing cleanup events is one of the best ways you can help fight plastic pollution. Many international cleanup events are also being held every year.
If fighting plastic pollution is something you strongly advocate for, you can join such events and make a difference.
Replace bottled water with reusable substitutes
People need to drink lots of water every day, and water bottles provide a convenient way to help keep us hydrated.
But, many of these water bottles are recommended for single use only, which means you need to throw them away right after you finish it.
You can help reduce plastic waste by substituting your plastic water bottles with reusable alternatives. Many markets are selling tumblers; some of which even come with great designs!
Express your support for plastic bans
Globally, several countries and municipalities have pushed for the ban of single-use plastics. You can help minimize plastic pollution within your local community by airing your support for such policies and movements.
Encourage others to be a part of the solution
Your voice plays an essential role in getting others involved. Keep yourself informed of the issues related to plastic pollution, and help spread awareness of the global crisis. Educate your family and friends about how they can help solve the problem, like avoiding single-use plastics.
You can also step up your effort by speaking with businesses and letting them know how you would like better alternatives. You can tell them about eco-friendly options for packing and bagging their items for sale.
Many shops are already starting to use eco bags, while some restaurants began utilizing low-cost replacements like bamboo utensils.
Donate in organizations fighting plastic pollution
Many non-profit organizations are working to combat and eradicate plastic pollution in various ways. Organizations like Plastic Pollution Coalition, Plastic Soup Foundation, and Oceanic Society help save our oceans from plastic wastes.
Your donations, no matter how small, can support the efforts of these groups in saving mother nature from the harmful effects of plastic pollution.
Try to reach out to your lawmakers, and participate in activities supported by the government related to your cause. Encourage the authorities to craft measures that will help solve the plastic pollution problem, and suggest alternatives if possible.
These eight ideas are just some of the simple ways you can make a difference when it comes to solving the growing plastic pollution problem in the world.
What matters is we all do something to minimize the problem and protect our environment and ourselves the best way possible.
You can also get in touch with the organizations mentioned above if you want to support their causes or extend your donations.