Beat Plastic Pollution and Save the Environment

Mohoshina Akter

Plastic is a great human creation that changed the world and brought comfort to our lifestyle. Plastics are micro-molecules, formed by polymerization and having the ability to be shaped by the application of reasonable amount of heat and pressure or any other form of forces.

Everywhere we use plastic products to help make our lives cleaner, easier, safer and more enjoyable. Now plastics are in all human activity ranging from clothing to shelter, infrastructure to communication, agriculture to construction, hardware to packaging and entertainment to health care. The growth in consumption of plastic products will continue in the coming decade.

This possible rise in plastic consumption may lead to huge plastic waste in municipal areas. According to the trade association plastics Europe, world plastic production grew from some 1.5 million ton (about 1.7 million tons) per year in 1950 to an estimated 275 million ton (303.1 million tons) by 2010 and 359 million ton (nearly 396 million tons) by 2018; between 4.8 million and 12.7 million ton (5.3 million and 14 million tons) are discarded into the oceans annually by countries with ocean coastlines.

A report produced by the world economic forum (2018) found that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans due to 13 million ton of plastic ending up in the ocean each year. A National Geographic report says that plastic kills millions of marine and land animals every year. Experts have found out that all species to have eaten micro plastic – from small shrimps to big elephants. The effects vary from damaging the digestive and reproductive systems to death.

Most used plastic materials are non-biodegradable and decompose at different rates. Managing plastic waste is increasingly becoming a global environmental and economic challenge.

“Plastic pollution can have harmful effects on the land and rivers by affecting wildlife and habitat, but also on human health. Plastic debris represents a chemical pollution in several ways. They contain compounds that can be chemically transferred to organisms during ingestion.”

Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion ton of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment. Micro plastics (pieces under 5 millimeters long) and Nano plastics (pieces under 0.001 millimeter) are the result of plastic breaking down and that is how it is transported in the air we breathe, infiltrates our tap water and goes into our food.

Every year, we are potentially absorbing tens of thousands of micro plastic particles. Plastic pollution can have harmful effects on the land and rivers by affecting wildlife and habitat, but also on human health. Plastic debris represents a chemical pollution in several ways. They contain compounds that can be chemically transferred to organisms during ingestion. Some of these molecules are potentially toxic and can accumulate in the body. Besides, plastic bags also affect the growth of crops, by hindering the process of photosynthesis in agricultural fields.

The most direct effect of plastic pollution is the imprisonment of animals in nets or large debris. It is a cause of significant mortality of marine mammals, turtles and birds. According to the Natural Environment approximately 100,000 sea turtles and other marine animals die every year because they get strangled in bags or mistake them for food. Plastic pollution causes harm to humans, animals and plants through toxic pollutants. It can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic to break down so the environmental damage is long-lasting. It affects all organisms in the food chain from tiny species like plankton through to whales. Toxins work their way up the food chain when plastic is ingested and can even be present in the fish people eat.

Because of the chemical additives used during plastic production, plastics have potentially harmful effects on human health. Indeed, exposure to toxic chemicals coming out of plastic can cause cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity and other health problems.

Beating plastic pollution is an important step in preventing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, strengthening food security, and reducing negative health impacts. We need to slow the flow of plastic at its source, but we also need to improve the way we manage our plastic waste. Because right now, a lot of it ends up in the environment. The global volume of plastic waste continues to grow, and some of the biggest producers don’t manage their waste effectively.

Bangladesh, which became the first country in the world to ban polythene bags in 2002, made a voluntary commitment last year at the ocean conference in New York to significantly prevent and reduce marine pollution by 2025.

To beat plastic pollution, we need to entirely redesign or rethink our behaviors relating to the consumption and production of plastic. It is time for research and investment to lead to suitable, environmentally-friendly and affordable alternatives to plastic. To efficiently reduce plastic pollution, there is an evident need of reducing our usage of plastic. It means changing our everyday behaviors and not using plastic when there is a better alternative to it and only using plastic when strictly necessary.

We all have a role to play. As individuals, we can reduce our plastic pollution and be more environmentally conscious by avoiding single-use plastics (e.g. Straws, cups, cutlery, etc.) And packaging materials (e.g. Polybags). Instead we can use jute bags, glass bottles or jars, steel or ceramic cutleries and utensils, and paper-made tetra packs. The private sector needs to invest more in producing alternatives and biodegradable plastics and in phasing out the production of plastic. More research and technology investment and development is required to make alternatives to plastic that are economically viable and affordable.

Government should play a leading role by enacting strong policies and regulations to beat the plastic pollution for environmental safety.

Authos is Mohoshina Akter, Associate Editor

The Environment Review

%d bloggers like this: