THE PROBLEM OF PLASTICS IN THE ENVIRONMENT
- July 7, 2020
Plastic is so present in our daily lives that we rarely stop to think about the problem of plastic in the environment.
According to the United Nations, the pollution caused by the disposal of plastic objects is one of the great challenges of today.
According to studies carried out by the scientific community that analyses this global phenomenon, about eight million tons of plastic waste and its derivatives are thrown into the oceans annually.
The garbage that we see on our beaches is only 15% of all the garbage that exists in the oceans. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 15% of marine waste floats on the surface or is in the water column (more than 40 centimetres deep). The remaining 70% are in the depths, out of sight.
And the future does not hold good news for us, as world plastic production has been growing steadily for over half a century, from approximately 1.9 tonnes in 1950 to around 330 million tonnes in 2013.
Plastic in the Food Chain
The environmental impact of plastic waste in the oceans and, consequently, in the food chain, has become a real concern for governments, scientists, NGOs and ordinary people around the world.
A six-year study by the 5 Gyres Institute estimated that there are about 5.25 trillion plastic particles floating in the ocean, which is equivalent to 269,000 tonnes of plastic.
And part of all this plastic, in the form of microplastics, enters the food chain and harms various organisms, including humans.
However, some scientists say that the full potential of damage that plastic can cause in the food chain is not known for certain, requiring further studies and increasing the visibility of the issue.
The problem of pollution by plastic waste presents alarming data. Based on a study published by the renowned scientific journal Science we have the following data.
Plastic Can Take 400 Years to Decompose
Image: Beawiharta Beawiharta – Reuters
As much of the waste produced by people takes a long time to decompose and is not destined for recycling, the world today is experiencing a lack of space in landfills.
As a result, open-air dumps proliferate, contaminating river water and groundwater, which compromises our health.
Plastic in the environment can also hinder the decomposition of other waste, further reinforcing the overcrowding of landfills.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we present the following degradation times:
• plastic bottle takes 450 years
• plastic containers take 50 to 80 years
• plastic bags take 20 to 1000 years
• cotton swabs take 40 to 60 years
• fishing lines take 800 years
• nylon takes 30 to 40 years
By 2050 There Will be More Plastic in the Oceans than Fish
Overcrowding of landfills consequently causes an increase in waste at sea. Transforming the oceans into garbage dumps. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic are discharged into the oceans annually, unbalancing the marine ecosystem in several ways, such as:
• Plastic degrades into smaller particles, which are ingested by fish and other animals and sea birds. Without digestion, they die slowly and painfully
• In large quantities in the sea, plastic prevents the penetration of oxygen into sediments, also compromising the biochemical cycle of marine flora
Plastic is Responsible for the Death of 100,000 Marine Animals Each Year
The phenomenon is really worrying: death from plastic ingestion compromises the reproductive cycle of marine species and it is estimated that at least 15% of them today are in extinction.
Only in the case of sea turtles, five of the seven catalogued species are at risk of disappearing from the oceans, according to a survey by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Sea birds, such as pelicans and albatrosses, are also victims of this phenomenon: by 2050, at least 99% of them will have ingested plastic.
91% of the Plastic Used in the World is not Recycled
Large-scale production of plastic-based synthetic materials began around the 1950s.
Since then, it has been estimated that in 65 years the world produced 8.3 billion tons of plastic, but only recycled 9% of that total.
Even with all the problems already identified, the pace of production and disposal does not slow down: by 2050, there will be at least another 12 billion tons of plastic in the environment.
Worldwide, One Million Plastic Bottles are Purchased Every Minute
Unfortunately, the pace of recycling does not keep up with production: only half of the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 were collected for recycling, and only 7% of them were converted into new units, according to data from the English newspaper The Guardian.
Up to 500 Billion Disposable Plastic Bags are Used Every Year
Plastic bags are very useful and even seem harmless, but they do a great deal of damage to the environment.
They are often eaten by sea birds, causing their death.
After presenting this serious problem and the alarming and frightening data, a question remains: what can we do to reverse this situation?
First, we need to practice conscious consumption, that is, rethink and reduce the disposal of plastic in the environment.
And each citizen can adopt changes in habits and start doing their part. Let’s see:
At the supermarket
• take Eco bags or shopping bags to avoid using plastic bags
• use cardboard boxes
• buy products with biodegradable packaging
• Adopt returnable bottles
• Avoid plastic bags and Styrofoam packaging when buying fruits and vegetables
• Try to bring cloth bags for purchases of bulk items
In bars and restaurants
• Dispense plastic straws
• Value establishments that follow good environmental preservation practices
• Separate the plastic packaging for proper collection of recyclable material
• encourage other members of your family to adopt changing habits as well
• Replace personal hygiene items, such as disposable diapers and pads, with greener versions
• avoid the use of disposables, such as cups, cutlery and small plates
• Have your own mug for drinks like water and coffee
• Promote conscious consumption. Encourage your colleagues to do the same.
On the social networks
Share good practices on social networks using the hashtag #plasticfree.
Inside your car
How many hours a day do you and your loved ones spend inside your car?
Would you like to keep your car clean and tidy without losing on style? Would you like to be more eco-friendly?
Use Roo eco-friendly car tidy bags!
They are designed to be hung over the gear stick of your car or the head rest, acting as a litter bag and car organiser – ideal for both manual and automatic cars.
Roo car tidy bags keep your car clean and organised and, at the same time, collaborate with environmental clean-up and conservation of ecosystems.
Our Roo car tidy bags are an immediate solution to the street garbage problem and to the restriction on the use of plastic bags.
By using them you will be contributing directly to environmental preservation at the cost of just a few dollars. ROO BAGS® knows that we all have a part to play!
New Link in the Food Chain? Marine Plastic Pollution and Seafood Safety