WHY YOU SHOULD SAY NO TO PLASTIC
Why Say No To Plastic – For Those Who Still Need Convincing.
Today we talk about one of the inventions of mankind, which if not the greatest, is definitely the most widespread product on this planet. You’ve probably guessed it right – we’re talking about Plastic. Replacing countless other products and revolutionising the industrial age, plastic has encroached into our lifestyle and made its presence felt in literally every nook and corner of our planet. Surely, you’re not wondering why we are sounding a bit sceptical about this “great’ invention, are you? That is because Plastic is also, one of the greatest threats that we and this planet are facing right now. Tackling this threat is the need of the hour. That is why this article will expose the truly deceptive nature of this magical invention of mankind and the urgency of why you should say no to plastic!
Plastic has assimilated itself so much into our lives that we have become almost completely dependant on it. To understand the magnanimity of the situation, it is equally important that you also know the journey of plastic. The History of plastic is indeed quite fascinating, as in how this accidental invention, in such a short time, became a crucial factor in the development of human civilisation.
Here’s an irony to start with – Plastic, which is now known to be responsible for taking millions of lives including those of animals, birds, marine life, and even humans, was originally invented to save animal lives. The elephant lives in particular. In the 19th century, there was a huge demand for ivory based billiard balls, which put the elephants at risk due to the rampant poaching that ensued. Although the invention of plastic was still incomplete, the addition of celluloid gave it enough hardness to replace ivory. Perhaps for a short while, it did save the elephants. However that was then, the reality now is this – Elephant killed by plastic pollution. Plastic, however, still had a long way to go, before it became a part of our daily lives and then turned around to become a threat to the entire planet.
Presently, over 300 million metric tons of plastic are produced globally every year!
In 1907, by improving the phenol-formaldehyde reaction, Leo Hendrik Baekeland gave the world Bakelite – a fully synthetic plastic resin with molecules that were not found anywhere in nature. This marked the turning point in history, after which the demand for plastic skyrocketed! Its highly malleable nature, cheap cost of production and extreme durability meant that it would soon replace countless other products and resources that tend to cost much more than plastic. With such useful features, why then are we insisting that you say no to plastic? Precisely because of those very features! Don’t believe us? Read on…
All of the plastic that has ever been produced still exists!
Low manufacturing cost and extreme durability – the two greatest strengths of plastic, is sadly also the very reason why plastic has become our most formidable enemy. Plastic has literally swarmed the planet. The industrial age was built on it. Across industries, plastic has become an intricate part of the system. And not just industries, it has become an irreplaceable part of even common households. We wear it, eat and drink from it, sleep in it, work on it, practically live on it and as things seem to be going, we’ll probably also die because of it!
With such a huge scale of demand for plastic, where does it all finally go when its use is up? Nowhere! That’s right, because plastic takes an unnaturally long time to decompose. And that is the problem, since all of the plastic that is produced globally, simply discarded away, has become the worst kind of pollution affecting the planet. The consequences of plastic pollution are no longer hidden, but is now right in our face and threatening the existence of our entire ecosystem, which of course includes the human race! Got your attention now? Keep reading to see what those consequences are.
The major consequences of plastic pollution
There are always consequences to catering to unchecked greed, and now plastic is going to make us pay the price for giving in to its cheap convenience! Since plastic is cheap to manufacture it tends to be mass-produced at a massive scale. Once a plastic product has completed its use, it is still cheaper to simply discard it and produce more plastic, instead of recycling it. Need help on why that is a problem? Then here are some statistics for you – Seven charts that explain the plastic pollution problem
Ever since plastic has come to be, we have produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of it, 6.3 billion metric tons have become garbage
An article published last December by the National Geographic presented shocking statistics regarding plastic production and disposal. On the one hand, there is the sheer number of plastic that is produced globally every year. On the other hand, the fact that plastic does not decompose easily and tends to last for a very long time. This makes it one of the major sources of pollution plaguing the planet currently. Plastic pollution affects not only the environment but practically all life on the planet, including human lives! Instead of decomposing, plastic tends to break up into smaller and smaller particles over time. All of these have major consequences, as you will read below.
Environmental Issues: How plastic pollution is damaging the ecosystem
Plastic is everywhere. From the deepest point in the ocean to the top of the highest peak that we have scaled, plastic has made it there. And when plastic, on rare occasions, gets incinerated instead, it pollutes the air. But that too, is much work for something that is cheaper to just dump away. And so, other than the 12% plastic that gets incinerated, the remaining gets dumped into the ocean or ends up in a landfill somewhere!
Mountains of plastic polluting our lands
Where humans tend to settle down, the society tends to generate a lot of waste. The most troublesome of these waste items is plastic, because of its non-biodegradable nature. To add to the trouble, plastic is the most produced, not just for industrial use but for even the regular folks for their daily needs. In fact, it is our habit of convenience, that created the entire market of ‘single-use’ plastic which has made its presence most widely felt in common households.
A monstrous child of plastic, which as the name suggests is discarded after just a single use. Why? Because it is extremely cheap to manufacture, and also of such cheap quality that it cannot even be recycled. Plastic, subsequently forms the largest chunk of the total waste generated globally.
It is estimated that about 12 billion metric tons of plastic will be piled up on our landfills by 2050
It’s a standard practice around the world, to ship off a major chunk of the waste to a landfill somewhere, where over time such non-biodegradable waste products will form mountains of garbage. As the plastic breaks down, it releases deadly toxins that went into its making. Since plastic waste tends to collect in humongous quantities, and lasts for a very long duration, overtime a huge amount of toxin contaminates the soil. Slowly the toxins also seep down and contaminate the groundwater. The sheer quantity of the plastic trash collected and the toxins that it leaks out, makes plastic one of the most dangerous of the Top 10 Causes Of Land Pollution
Polluting water and contaminating the source of life on this planet
All of the waste, especially plastic, that does not make it to a landfill, ends up in the ocean. And that, is no small number! Plastic waste either gets shamelessly dumped by the truckloads into the ocean – A whopping 8-10 million tons every year, or it simply drifts and makes into one of the waterways, from where it ultimately ends up in the ocean. The 10 most polluted rivers in the world are a testament to the damage plastic pollution can cause to our waterways.
Plastic comprises 90% of the trash that is floating on the ocean surface!
The ocean is our primary source of water. The massive amount of plastic debris that has made it into the ocean has contaminated the water and wreaked havoc in the marine ecosystem. The plastic floating in the ocean sometimes get caught in a current called gyres and tend to accumulate to form floating garbage patches on the ocean surface. There are 5 such patches, the largest of which – the great pacific garbage patch – has no trace of life directly below it. This is because of the dangerous toxins that plastic leaks out as it breaks down, which, well, destroys life! And we keep dumping millions of tons of plastic every year, into our primary water source! No wonder then that plastic is one of the Top 10 causes of water pollution.
Health Issues: How plastic pollution is harming every life on this planet
Of course, the trouble doesn’t end just with the environment getting damaged. The life that is sustained by the environment too gets affected by plastic pollution.
Endangering marine animals & seabirds
Every year hundreds of thousands of marine animals and millions of seabirds fall victim to plastic pollution. Animals and birds tend to get entangled in large pieces of plastic such as fishing nets. Smaller pieces such as single-use plastic bags get confused for food. When these are eaten by marine animals they risk getting choked to death by the plastic they swallowed. Perhaps, this video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw sticking out of its nostrils, will help you understand the threat the marine animals are facing. Also, plastic keeps breaking down, till they are of microscopic size. Marine animals that consume these microplastic run the risk of developing many diseases due to the toxins present in the plastic.
Already there are more plastic than plankton in the sea. One in four fish have been found to contain plastic, and it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the sea! Here’s more – Massive Microplastic Contamination Detected In Seals & Deep-Sea Fishes. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of the scale at which plastic is threatening life on this planet.
If you’re still feeling uneasy with that turtle video, then know that there are simple changes you can implement in your lifestyle that can make you a part of the solution instead of the problem. Switching everyday single-use plastic items such as the straw, with an organic alternative such as this eco-friendly metal straw is one such simple step you can take right away! The key is to get started and begin to say no to plastic.
A Serious threat to human health
Alright, by now, you know how huge amounts of plastic trash ends up polluting and damaging the ecosystem including the plants, animals and birds. And, perhaps you also remember us mentioning that plastic releases toxic chemicals as it breaks down. Bisphenol A (BPA) and Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) are two such deadly chemicals that plastic releases as it breaks down. Both of these chemicals are known to cause serious health complications. Hopefully, plastic poisoning, if nothing else, should have got your attention now.
Plastic has encroached into our lives so much that there is practically little chance of not being a victim to plastic pollution. Our clothes contain plastic, the food we eat and the water we drink are stored in plastic containers. Over time, as the plastic begins to react to the food, liquid, and other environmental factors, it starts breaking down, releasing the toxic chemicals as it does so. Here are some facts that are sure to get your attention:
- More than 90% of the adults tested in the United States, were found to have traces of BPA in their system
- The chemicals present in plastic are carcinogenic and also disrupt the endocrine system
- BPA also causes problems related to hormonal, sexual and reproductive functions.
- BPA, which is often found in plastic products made for babies, have been known to cause cardiovascular complications in children and adolescents
Also, if you’ve been of the impression that the damage plastic pollution causes to marine life is not related to you, then think again! Smaller fish consume the small pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, and the big fish consume those small fishes. This chain continues, till some of the seafood, with plastic present in it, makes it to our dinner tables. The article An era of plastic overkill, is a perfect eyeopener, if you need more insight into the damage plastic pollution is causing to the health of the entire planet. Hopefully, the serious health risk that plastic poses to you and your family helps convince you of the criticality on why you should say no to plastic! So now, let’s take a look at the primary reasons behind the plastic pollution crisis.
Causes of plastic pollution
If we are, to be honest, then the primary cause of the plastic pollution menace we are facing is, of course, our own careless attitude towards the environment. Sure, businesses and industries are to blame for flooding the market with plastic products. However, it wouldn’t have been possible if all the common folks were to say no to plastic. It is in fact the general populations demand for plastic that has given rise to such devastating plastic pollution situation. Below, we take a look at some of the major causes of plastic pollution.
Ever since plastic entered the market, it boosted the industrial development due to its low cost, malleable nature and extreme durability. Due to these properties, plastic has also been adopted across industries as a replacement to much costlier resources. The widespread corruption between governments and businesses across the globe have seen various regulations been flouted, and poor waste management systems being implemented. This has contributed heavily to the amount of plastic waste being generated and then carelessly disposed off.
Since plastic is so cheap, and since corporates have traditionally never cared for the environment, they have heavily marketed the idea of cheap and convenient plastic products to regular households. Almost every item within a regular household has plastic on it. The most dangerous of these are single-use plastic items which are discarded as soon as they are brought home! As the population keeps growing at a rapid rate, so does the amount of plastic that is generated from every household. This is a problem solely caused by the lack of awareness regarding plastic pollution, and the habit of corporates to exploit such ignorance! Of course the only way to combat this problem is to educate the masses. The top 5 cleanest cities in the world are a shining example of what awareness can achieve.
The plastic packaging hoax
Although at first you may not think packaging is such a major cause of plastic pollution, think about any item you’ve bought from a store or ordered online. That’s right, they always come wrapped in plastic, and in multiple layers of it! And the worst part is that, the plastic used for packaging is of such low quality that it cannot be recycled. In the end, it finds its way to a landfill or into the ocean.
Almost half of the 49 million tonnes of plastic that Europe uses every year, is used for packaging!
The story of plastic is surely filled with many ironies. First, it was about saving elephant lives. This time, it was about reducing food wastage by using low-cost plastic packaging to preserve food. The truth is again quite the opposite of what was promised. Studies have shown how over the years, food wastage has increased, along with the amount of plastic packaging that is manufactured to falsely preserve those food. If this has raised your concern, then here are more details about The plastic food-packaging scam.
Other than the sheer amount of trash that plastic packaging produces, what is worrisome is the extreme low quality of plastic material used. These plastic have been found to leak toxic chemicals as it reacts to the acid in the food. The toxins, as we have seen above, causes serious health complications. Like we said before, awareness is the key. With a little public initiative a lot of change is possible, even getting the government itself to act! Here’s one such example – AUSTRALIA MAKES A MOVE TO ELIMINATE NON-RECYCLABLE PACKAGING BY 2025. And now let us take a talk about the biggest culprit behind the whole plastic pollution problem.
The True Villain: Single-use plastic
Finally, let’s talk about the king of all pollutants this planet has ever faced – Single-Use Plastic. Single-use, sounds quite harmless, right? Hell no! This little monster, is choking the Earth and all life on it, like no other pollutant. So, what exactly is this evil human invention we’re screaming about? Well, if plastic is a monster, then this is literally its devil child that has flooded the entire planet worse than a tsunami.
A million plastic bottles a minute, 500 million straws per day and 4 trillion plastic bags a year – such statistics, makes the Single-use plastic products the most formidable enemy!
The trouble with this particular item is revealed in the name itself! After just a ‘Single Use’ this piece of plastic is discarded away. Why? Because it’s so damn cheap! And because of its extremely low cost, millions and billions and trillions of numerous single-use plastic item is produced, brought into the market and then discarded away after just a one-time use! Single-use plastic plays a major role in enabling even the 2 causes mentioned above. All the precious resources that get used up in order to make this product, is, poof! Gone after a single use!
Its low cost and even lower quality is what makes it such a troublesome product. Traces have microplastic have been found in almost all bottled water. Being so flimsy, it is often mistaken for food and consumed by both land and marine animals. If it causes so much problem, why then is there such a huge demand for single-use plastic? One word – convenience! Since time immemorial, humans have always compromised with the environment over convenience. Only this time, we might have eaten more than we can chew. Truly makes one wonder, A MIRACLE OR A CURSE: WHAT IS SINGLE-USE PLASTIC?
There are of course many other reasons behind plastic pollution. Here are some more causes to be aware of – Top 8 causes of plastic pollution. The next step to understanding the plastic pollution problem and the causes that lead to it, is to help solve this problem!
Solutions to the plastic pollution crisis
There is no doubt that education is key to solving a problem. However, it is equally crucial that action follows awareness. It is easier for just you, to say no to plastic. Getting others to join in, requires more effort. Let us see some of the actions you can begin taking right away, to help reduce plastic pollution.
The first solution that comes to anyone’s mind is, of course, recycling! That is why it is all the more important to debunk this myth, right away. You read that right! Recycling plastic as a way to reduce plastic pollution is at best a theory. In reality, less than 9% of the 300+ million metric tons of plastic produced every year, gets recycled worldwide. Why? Because it is not cost-effective to recycle. Or in other words, it is simply not worth recycling plastic since producing it costs much lesser! If this is news to you, then here’s A Dirty Truth Of Our Time: The Near Absence Of Plastic Recycling
Now that we have all false hopes out of the way, let’s consider the options you actually have at your disposal. To make it simple to start with, here are 3 simple steps to curb plastic pollution:
Step 1: Start with yourself
As the old saying goes, practice what you preach! So before everything else you need to bring about a change in your lifestyle that considerably reduces, if not completely eliminates, the amount of plastic you use or bring home. That is, first you need to say no to plastic!
Easier said than done right? Actually, no. Contrary to what you might imagine, it is quite possible to eliminate plastic from your life. Some items like the plastic straw can simply be avoided. So can those single-use plastic bottles and bags. If you really mean to, then here are 5 Simple Tips To Cut Down Your Plastic Consumption Habit
There is added power to an ideology when the entire family supports it. Of course, there are simple solutions for How To Become A Plastic-less Family, but the common practise is still to be unaware or indifferent and bring home some more plastic! Change, of course, begins from one’s own home.
Now that you have decided to say no to plastic, it is critical to ensure that your household too is in sync with the idea of a plastic-free lifestyle. If you have kids, encourage them to come up with creative solutions For example, since there’s always some food left after dinner in most households, here’s a Refreshing Plastic-free Alternative For Storing Leftovers. Together you can come up with many such innovative solutions to stay a Plastic-free family.
Step 2: Spread Awareness
The next step in saying no to plastic, is, of course, to get others to do the same. Sure there is corruption and other powerful entities that support the production and use of plastic products. However, there is power in numbers, and nothing can stand in the way when the general public join forces. Remember there are over 7 billion people on this planet now, and even a fraction of that is a force to be reckoned with!
Armed with the correct knowledge, a community can surely help slow down the single use plastic rampage. Even merely sharing articles such as this one with family, friends and colleagues can help spread the awareness and get the whole community to say no to plastic.
Step 3: Pressure the government & corporates
Once you have come together as a community, it is time to tackle the primary players behind the whole plastic pollution crisis. Sure, it is the ignorant public that are the main consumers of plastic. However, it is the corporations that produce and flood the market with plastic products. And it is the government that enables corporates to blatantly ignore environmental concerns.
Signing a petition, such as the one on ibanplastic.com, that addresses the plastic pollution issue is one of the simpler and more immediate ways you can start pressuring the big guys. Because, after all, they thrive on the support of the common people, and will do anything to remain in their good books.
It is especially refreshing, when common people force the government and corporations into acting against plastic. News such as – Chile bans single-use plastic, gives us hope that this difficult battle against plastic, can still be won. So don’t give, voice your concern, get others to join in, and keep the pressure on!
Now that you know the truth of the matter, do not let the issue of plastic pollution slide by. Stand strong in your fight against this unnatural product that is a threat to nature itself and all life in it. Help motivate others along the way – commenting below with your story is one such way. It is a tough battle, we agree. But it can be won, if we all come together and unanimously say no to plastic.