Aside from the pandemic, there’s another global threat to our lives. That threat is something that’s been here ever since the first civilization. No, it’s not collapsing buildings, damaged artwork, or weapons technology; it’s trash. Trash has been with us human beings, ever since the first people knew how to hunt and gather.
Today, trash is a problem that is becoming impossible to defeat as time passes. If this problem is left unchecked, we’ll soon be swimming in our own trash. Perhaps one of the most significant components in waste that we see often is plastic. Plastic is used everywhere. Plastic can be used for storage, in electronics, in movies, etc. Almost every aspect of life has a bit of plastic in it somewhere.
Although plastic is a very flexible material to use, the problem lies with how we throw it away. Plastic does not decompose easily. Plastic waste found in landfills often takes a thousand years to decompose. Plastic grocery bags can take 10-20 years to decompose, while plastic bottles take up to 400 or more years. As you can see, plastic is adding up in our garbage, and it’s not doing us any good.
With that said, let’s try to look at some facts about plastic and pollution that you should know about. Hopefully, these facts can shed light on why waste continues to become a big problem.
The Sources of Plastic in the Ocean
Believe it or not, Asian countries are some of the biggest producers of plastic waste that’s found in the oceans. Countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and most notably, China, are the top countries that have the most plastic waste. One of the little-known plastic pollution facts is that most first-world countries ship their trash to these countries, adding more to the growing problem.
Plastic Waste Is Becoming Microscopic
At first glance, people should be happy that plastic is getting smaller. However, that’s not the case. Plastic waste is becoming microscopic because of the sheer accumulation of it in the ocean. In fact, plastic or microplastic is a form of plastic waste that’s on the microscopic level.
If you’re not afraid of that fact, then here’s how microplastic is becoming a real problem: Microplastic has been found in the DNA of certain species of edible shellfish. For those who love eating seafood, you might be literally ingesting plastic. If plastic waste becomes an unstoppable problem, it may be possible that even larger marine animals such as fish will have microplastics in their DNA.
There Are Also Macroplastics
If microplastics are DNA-sized waste particles, then macroplastics are larger pieces of garbage you see every day. Although plastics are generally safe to use, the danger comes when animals interact with plastic. An example of these dangerous interactions are sea turtles and plastic.
A plastic bag floating in the ocean can resemble a jellyfish, a primary food source for most marine turtles. When a turtle sees a plastic bag floating, it may think it’s a jellyfish. Sadly, this is an actual fact as dead turtles who get autopsied, often reveal plastic bags in their gut. It’s not just turtles that do this, larger fish and even birds often end up on the wrong side when interacting with plastic waste.
Thankfully, a lot of countries are seeing the plastic problem and making ways to help solve it. One country notable for its crusade against using plastic is Kenya. In Kenya, using plastic bags can net anyone in the country with a fine of $40,000. A lot of environmental experts consider this law to be the toughest to reduce plastic usage.
Many countries, such as France, Rwanda, and Italy, are also heeding the call to reduce plastic usage. Hopefully, other countries might follow, resulting in more lasting effects on reducing plastic waste.
An Emerging Science
Stricter laws and fines aren’t the only good news springing up with plastic. Believe it or not, there’s an emerging science that’s being practiced worldwide that aims to produce environment-friendly plastic. Bioplastic is a promising study that encourages major plastic producers and consumers to create and use plastic out of naturally biodegradable material.
Some materials used for creating such plastics are corn, potato, soy, and other organic materials. Since most of the materials used in bio-plastics are organic, the decomposition time is significantly reduced, making bio-plastic, environment-friendly.
Environmental pollution is one of the biggest problems people are facing right now. Don’t let the pandemic distract you from the accumulating wastes that are continuously damaging our environment. From harmful microplastics to larger, more dangerous macroplastics, people should be aware of plastic pollution and the dangers it brings.
Thankfully, countries such as Kenya, France, Rwanda, and Italy, among others, are implementing laws that regulate or totally ban the use of plastic. One day, people might see a world that’s free of plastic waste. For now, we all have to do our part to avoid becoming a world that’s becoming one with plastic waste.