Plastic pollution is a major environmental problem because plastic is a durable material that can take hundreds or even thousands of years to decompose. As a result, plastic waste can persist in the environment for long periods of time, causing harm to wildlife and ecosystems. Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and human health. Plastic pollution can be found in all major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, including the oceans, mountains, and urban areas. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them.

Types of plastic pollution

There are two main types of plastic pollution:

1.      Macroplastics: Macroplastics are pieces of plastic that are larger than 5 millimeters in diameter. Macroplastics can be further divided into two categories: primary macroplastics and secondary macroplastics. Primary macroplastics are items that are designed to be used and then discarded, such as plastic bags, straws, and water bottles. Secondary macroplastics are items that break down from larger pieces of plastic, such as fishing nets and tires.

2.      Microplastics: Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter. Microplastics can be further divided into two categories: primary microplastics and secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics are items that are designed to be small, such as microbeads in cosmetics and synthetic fibers in clothing. Secondary microplastics are items that break down from larger pieces of plastic.

Plastic pollution in Ocean

The issue of plastic pollution in our oceans is a pressing and alarming one, with staggering statistics underscoring its severity. Annually, an astounding 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, constituting a staggering 80% of marine debris encountered, spanning from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. This problem is exacerbated by the production of over 400 million tons of plastic each year, designed for a multitude of applications. Tragically, marine species suffer from ingestion and entanglement in plastic debris, leading to severe injuries and even death. This widespread plastic pollution not only jeopardizes food safety and quality but also poses risks to human health, impacts coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change. The urgency to seek out and reinforce legally binding agreements to combat marine plastic pollution is undeniable. Astonishingly, every minute, our oceans receive the equivalent of one full garbage truck's worth of plastic waste. In the UK, alarming data reveals the presence of approximately 5,000 pieces of marine plastic pollution per mile of beach. Disturbingly, only 1% of marine litter remains afloat, while the majority sinks to the ocean floor. This extensive issue knows no bounds, as plastic waste has been detected as far as 11 kilometers deep, contaminating Earth's most remote and pristine locations.

Impacts of plastic pollution

Plastic pollution has a wide range of negative impacts on the environment and human health. Some of the most significant impacts include:

1.      Harm to wildlife:

Plastic pollution can harm wildlife in a number of ways. Animals can become entangled in plastic debris, which can lead to injury or death. Animals can also mistake plastic for food and eat it, which can block their digestive systems and lead to starvation. Plastic pollution can also leach harmful chemicals into the environment, which can harm wildlife and human health.

2.      Damage to ecosystems

Plastic pollution can damage ecosystems in a number of ways. Plastic waste can pollute soil and water, and it can disrupt the food chain. Plastic pollution can also damage habitats and make it difficult for plants and animals to survive.

3.      Human health risks

Plastic pollution can also pose a risk to human health. Harmful chemicals can leach from plastic waste into the environment and contaminate food and water supplies. Microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter, can also be ingested by humans and may have negative health impacts.

Impacts on Marine Ecosystems

The most visible impacts of plastic debris are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fish and turtles mistake plastic waste for prey; most then die of starvation as their stomachs become filled with plastic. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries. Floating plastics also help transport invasive marine species, thereby threatening marine biodiversity and the food web.

Impacts on climate change

Climate change is an often overlooked aspect to the plastic pollution crisis.. The production, disposal, and mishandling of plastic waste contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. When plastic waste is incinerated, it releases carbon dioxide, while landfills produce methane. These emissions amplify the global warming crisis, adding another layer to the interconnected challenges we face.

To combat this multifaceted issue, a global commitment to reducing plastic consumption, improving recycling systems, and advocating for stricter regulations is essential. We must also encourage innovation in biodegradable materials and waste management practices. In tandem, addressing climate change necessitates a parallel effort, emphasizing the importance of mitigating plastic's role in the climate crisis.

In conclusion, tackling plastic pollution and climate change is a shared responsibility that requires global cooperation and immediate action. By understanding the extensive reach and devastating consequences of plastic pollution, we can work towards a more sustainable and healthy future for ourselves and the planet.


In a world where convenience often takes precedence over environmental responsibility, plastic pollution has emerged as a formidable threat to our planet. The enduring nature of plastic, coupled with its exponential production, has led to the contamination of our ecosystems, the endangerment of countless species, and the degradation of our own health. From macroplastics cluttering our landscapes to microplastics infiltrating our food chains, the adverse effects of plastic pollution are palpable.

About the Author: Adnan Ullah is a dedicated Postgraduate (MS) student pursuing his passion for environmental studies from Karakorum international University, Gilgit, Pakistan. Currently, he is working on SDG 13, which is about climate action because of his deep passion about climate change crisis.