Causes Of Plastic Pollution
What Makes This invention the Monster that is choking our Planet?
Plastic, is it a boon or a bane? Surely, makes one wonder if this invention of mankind that needs no introduction anywhere in the world. Was it a gift or a curse? There is no doubt or questioning the vast amount of benefits this one invention provided. Discovered almost by accident. The history of plastic is indeed a fascinating one that throws light on its evolution, from being a mere convenience to becoming a complete dependency. By the time we took notice of how much plastic had overtaken the planet, it had already reached a scale of frightening proportions. Funnily, however, the causes of plastic pollution tend to point simply to the greed of human beings and our careless attitude towards the environment!
Sure, the problem of plastic pollution has been getting plenty of attention, which is great. But it is also because plastic pollution has already become an eyesore that affects each and every living being on this planet. Whether in land or water. We are living in An Era Of Plastic Overkill, where avoiding plastic has become next to impossible. It has been found everywhere, from the highest mountain peaks to the deepest part of the ocean. There is so much plastic in the oceans that they have accumulated together and formed islands. The biggest one is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is twice the size of Texas! If this comes as shocking news to you, then here are some shocking statistics to shed light on the plastic pollution situation.
Plastic is no longer just a crucial material needed across industries but has made its presence felt even in common households. Our daily life revolves around constantly coming in contact with items enveloped, encased or contained in plastic. The food we eat to the clothes we wear, they’re all touched by plastic. It’s not just the bottle that is plastic, traces of micro-plastic have been found even in the water itself. Plastic has entered our food chain and in all probability is already in your system. This should be concerning to you because of all the deadly toxins such as BPA that plastic tends to leak out over time. If that got your attention, then get your chin up, because the causes of plastic pollution mentioned below will throw a clearer light on why this innovative product became a problem, and how you can be a part of the solution.
The Top 8 Causes Of Plastic Pollution
1. Plastic is cheap to make and lasts forever!
The biggest irony of this innovative product that came into existence not very long ago is that the very advantages of this product are also the biggest causes of plastic pollution. Plastic lasts an insanely long amount of time before it begins to disintegrate. Even those flimsy water bottles tend to last close to 500 years. To put it more simply, all of the plastic ever produced, still exists today! Add to this the extremely cheap cost of production, and it is not very hard to see why this product began to spread like wildfire. Since it was so cheap to make and insanely durable, plastic made it into every nook and corner of our lifestyle. And then, because it was so cheap, the plastic got discarded just as easily and without a second thought. That is why we see plastic everywhere – in use, or dumped for good! As you will soon see, these two qualities of plastic are also what enabled the next causes of plastic pollution.
2. The convenience of single-use plastic
Due to the nature of plastic that we mentioned in the above point, plastic production has been going full throttle. It has now touched over 300 million tons of plastic being produced every year. Even more, scarier is the fact that almost 50% of the total plastic produced, is Single-use plastic, arguably one of the worst causes of plastic pollution. Are you wondering why single-use plastic is so scary? Then look no further than its name! And as the name suggests, single-use plastics are those that are meant to be used just once and then discarded.
It is quite an irony too. Because, although the cost of production is even lesser due to the extremely low-quality requirements of single-use plastic, it still requires a lot of precious natural resources to build it. For example, a 1-litre single-use plastic bottle needs about 8 litres of water for its production! Although the trash keeps piling up due to all the single-use plastic that gets discarded continuously, we just can’t seem to get past the convenience that single-use plastics offer. Here are just a few figures to give you a better perspective:
- A million plastic bottles are sold every minute
- Over 500 million straws get used and discarded every day
- 16 billion coffee cups, sipped from and thrown away every year
- Approximately, 580 billion cigarette butts get butted out in a year
- 4 trillion single-use plastic bags get used and discarded annually.
Just like the items mentioned above, almost all of the single-use plastic items are regular daily use products. Single the quality of these single-use plastic products is too low to be recycled, the discarded items either end up in some landfill, where it will slowly pollute the soil and groundwater, or they find their way into the various water bodies. However, all is not lost yet. News such as A Pan-Europe Ban On Single Use Plastic gives one hope. If you’ve suddenly realised your part in spreading the single-use plastic pollution and are feeling guilty, then here are some tips on How To Slow Down The Single-Use ‘Plastic’ Rampage.
3. Adopted across industries due to its unparalleled versatility
Plastic, as we already know by now, is very cheap to manufacture, it can be easily moulded and shaped as per requirement, is relatively strong and extremely durable. Due to these properties, plastic has been adopted across most industries, either for consumer based products or for its own internal functioning. And as one can imagine, although there are systems in place to check for proper waste disposal, it is seldom followed, leading to vast amounts of industrial plastic waste. The various consumer products based industries also tend to promote the idea of use and throw plastic products, leading to an increasing number of plastic waste from households. Thus, due to its versatility, plastic being adopted across industries has become a major cause of plastic pollution.
4. Soiling the sea through unchecked shipping and fishing activities
Our oceans are probably the biggest victims of plastic pollution, as that is where most of the plastic waste finally ends up. However, unknown to many, one of the top causes of plastic pollution, is the shipping and fishing industries. A close inspection of the plastic trash that washes ashore many beaches points to accidental or careless discarding of plastic trash from the shipping industries. One also often finds the remnants of fishing nets among the waste that collects on the beach.
The amount of plastic dumping that the ocean has to suffer from makes news such as 64lbs-of-plastic-found-in-the-belly-of-a-sperm-whale, not all that surprising! Considering the fact that our oceans are the primary source of our water and a significant source of food, all the toxins from the billions of pounds of discarded plastic in there finally make their way into our own bodies.
5. The irresponsible consumption rate of a rapidly growing population
After the cheap production cost and long lasting properties of plastic, one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution is the never-ending human greed and our lack of concern for the environment. A population that keeps on rapidly growing despite the warning and depleting resources leads to increasing demands for cheap convenience. And the undisputed leader of cheap convenience is, of course, Plastic!
The amount of plastic that moves through each household is staggering. Just take a look around, and you will see the level of invasion plastic has made into homes. Because over 50% of all plastic manufactured become trash in less than a year, a primary reason for the ever-increasing plastic pollution crisis points to a total lack of awareness, among regular households, of the catastrophic damage plastic is causing to the planet. If you are a more conscious person who actually cares for the environment, then here are some tips on making yours a Plastic-Free Family.
6. The unseen villain – plastic packaging!
Plastic is surely, among other nuisances, a sneaky invention. That is how it became a key player in the packaging industry. Contrary to what was promised by the food industry, instead of reducing food wastage, plastic packaging over the years has actually increased the amount of food wastage around the world. Since it represents almost half of all the plastic demand, the packaging industry is among the top causes of plastic pollution.
In Europe, every year, an average of about 30kg of plastic packaging per person is thrown away. Plastic packaging accounts for over 40% of the 49 million tonnes of plastic that Europe uses every year.
Don’t think the plastic packaging, found around almost all things sold, is a significant nuisance? Here’s an eyeopener – New Study Reveals: Plastic Packaging, A Disastrous Attempt At Curbing Food Wastage Issue
And it is not just food items, of course. Surely, you have noticed that almost anything you order online or even buy from stores, always come wrapped in plastic. Usually, in multiple layers of plastic. The plastic packaging in nearly all cases is single-use plastic that cannot be recycled and is discarded as soon as the item is unwrapped. Of course, there are alternative solutions, and since the problem of plastic pollution has reached such disastrous levels that it can no longer be ignored, makes one wonder Will sustainable packaging soon go mainstream?
7. The deceptive myth of plastic recycling
It is definitely not the first time that the corporate world lied and fooled the common folks. One such lie is the idea of recycling plastic. It all came to light when a group of scientists decided to check on the actual numbers, of how much plastic actually got recycled and how many got dumped or incinerated.
The results were shocking, and the numbers, hard to swallow. Are you ready? Of the 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic that we have produced so far around the world, a staggering 6.3 billion metric tonnes have become trash. A mere 9% of the total plastic produced gets recycled. Why? Mainly because it simply is not worth it. Additionally, single-use plastic such as bags, straws, plastic packaging etc. is of such low quality that it cannot be recycled. If you want to know more in detail, then here’s A Dirty Truth Of Our Time: The Near Absence Of Plastic Recycling.
8. Improper and irresponsible disposal of plastic trash
As you know by now, plastic is really cheap to manufacture. So cheap and so easy to mould, that it has been adopted across all industries. The cost of production is so low that it does not make sense to reuse or recycle plastic. Instead, dumping plastic becomes the preferred choice of the corporate world. Such casualness regarding dumping of a product that contains toxic chemicals is what makes it’s disposal one of the most dangerous causes of plastic pollution. Here’s an example – Millions of MicroPlastics Leaked Into The Ocean – Stenungsund Plants in Sweden
Dumping of plastic is responsible for land, air and water pollution. Dumping Of Non-Biodegradable Trash such as single-use plastic is one of the Top 10 causes of land pollution. All of the plastic that does not make it to a landfill or is incinerated, finally make their way to the nearest waterbody. The 10 most polluted rivers around the world are a testament to the disaster caused by the careless disposal of plastic. Of course, when the whole world is suffering, one cannot simply keep blaming the corporates. Lack of awareness among individuals plays a major role in furthering plastic pollution. Once you gain awareness and do your research, you will realise how easy it is to behave more responsibly and cut down your contribution to the rising plastic pollution issue.
As stated earlier, plastic is among the easily disposed of items due to their lightweight and use period. Take, for example, plastic paper bags, wrappers, plastic water bottles, straws, and food containers. The use period for these items is very short. Therefore, after getting the essential item, most people don’t see the need for keeping the remaining plastic. Are you or someone you know Still Using Plastic? Here are 6 solid reasons not to.
The amount of plastic pollution currently troubling the world is of such level now that it might not be enough that just you are aware. It is equally important now to help spread this awareness so that we all can collectively help solve this problem, that we all collectively helped create in the first place. Sharing articles such as this with your friends and peers will help in spreading the correct knowledge. If you have a personal story on how you are fighting this plastic pollution menace, then share to help motivate others in doing the same, by commenting below!