Plastic pollution is seriously a major and complex environmental concern that we face today. It seems like we live in a world of plastic. When we look at our surroundings, we would notice that nearly all our daily equipment is made of plastic or plastic is used as the main ingredient in them. The unhandled use of plastic and disposal generated from it keeps on growing with the population.
Today, there is a production of 300 million tones of plastic waste each year that is approximately equal to the entire weight of the human population. Imagine this plastic waste dumps into life-giving water bodies and land. It also contaminates our breathing air and impacts not only our environment but also harms humans, animals, and plants.
Do you know?
If you want to know the effects of plastic on the environment, then look at these facts. Since 1950, nearly 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been manufactured globally and among them, only 9% is recycled. According to National Geographic, 73% of the ocean litter is plastic that includes bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, cigarette butts, etc.
Additionally, ingestion of microplastic kills around 1 million marine birds and 1,00,00 marine animals each year, claimed by the United Nations.
Reference source: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/plastic-pollution-facts/
The effects of plastic on the environment are so threatening that they can’t be explained. It seems quite confusing that the impact of plastic is long-lasting. Plastic takes thousands of years to break down. It is just not the plastic that harms nature but the release of toxins and fragments during photo-decomposition also pollute the water and soil. If plastic disposals are landfilled, they continue releasing chemical gases in that area. So, its adverse effect on the environment never ends. The population can control plastic pollution only by avoiding its use.
Long-term effects of plastic pollution
When plastic disposals are landfilled, they go deep inside the earth whenever the rain comes. These toxic plastic react with water and poison the water with Trimer, Bisphenol A, Polystyrene and other chemicals as a by-product which is hugely dangerous for health. Even Bisphenol A hinders the functioning of the reproductive system of animals.
People around the world experience untimely floods. We know that a flood is a natural phenomenon, but what about the human-made flood. We blame heavy rainfall and huge storms, but in some cases, they are not responsible. It is all because of the effects of plastic on the environment.
Surprised? Yes, humans are the root cause of untimely floods which are caused due to poor waste management and poor drainage systems. Many a time, damages from a flood can be avoided if people do not trash plastic carelessly. Plastic bottles, plastic bags, and other plastic materials block water reservoirs, sewer, canal, and water cannot pass through these clogged routes when heavy rainfall occurs. This hugely damages our daily life schedule, and even we lose lives.
Stemming plastic tide
With the growing population, land values are increased for constructing buildings. We require more land for cultivation. So, it becomes challenging to find land to dump garbages. Then we start throwing plastic disposal into the ocean. Initially, we are happy that our problem is solved, but as time passes, we throw so much disposal into the oceans, that it is now impossible to retrieve it back. Once the plastic is dumped into the ocean as microplastic and its minute particles are dissolved into water, then they are impossible to take out.
The negative effects of plastic on the soil are more dangerous as compared to water and air contamination. Because through the soil, this microplastic also gets into water and air when the wind blows and our groundwater is also contaminated during heavy rainfall. Thus from the soil, our other natural resources also get affected. Microplastic present in soil hinders the growth of plants and animals who live beneath the earth’s surface. China’s 19% of agricultural land is declared unfit for cultivation. Australia also admitted that its 80,000 sites are contaminated.
From animals to birds to fish to other minute organisms, all are affected by the plastic disposals and are killed due to plastic. Whales, seals, turtles, and other marine organisms are strangled in fishing nets and six-pack rings. Microplastic is present in more than 100 marine species. When these impacted fishes are served in our dinner plates, these microplastic bits pass into our digestive system and other large animals who eat them and cause even death in some cases.
Our land animals like tiger, camels, elephants, cattle also consume plastic. Consumption of microplastic harms the liver, damages the cells, disturb the functioning of the reproductive system and even cause death.
Unbalance the food chain
As plastic disposals are of various sizes from large to small, they are capable of harming even the world’s smallest organisms like plankton. Even these tiny animals get poisoned due to ingestion of plastic through various means such as breathing, eating, etc. This creates a problem for the larger animals that eat these tiny organisms for living and also become poisoned. All this process interferes in the proper working of the food chain and affects all other organisms that contribute to the food chain.
Some possible solutions
Amazingly, when human efforts take time to recover, nature itself starts heeling. Scientists have discovered a new enzyme in bacteria called plastic-eating bacteria which proves an angel for the aquatic organism. These lifesaving bacteria have the potential to save marine life and solve the problem of water pollution to a great extent.
All these are done by nature, but we must also do something about it. The only thing we can do now is to replace the plastic material and plastic products to some other sustainable materials and products. There are plenty of options. Try to look at them, like while shopping, go for sustainable packing, avoid the use of plastic in your daily life, replace your conventional beauty routines with natural organic products, etc.
Early from the school days, we all studied and are aware of the issues and effects of pollution, but the change is negligible. We are carelessly still using plastic material. Every possible effort to conserve the environment is not fruitful at the initial stage, but it will be helpful in the long run.