The Impacts of Plastic Pollution

Today, plastics have become an essential material in our daily lives. Plastics are cheap and very useful materials widely used for packaging, disposal, and other commercial purposes. Plastics are in high demand globally due to its numerous benefits, driven by a growing population and development. However, inadequate management, improper disposal, and a lack of recycling infrastructure result in massive plastic pollution. Some plastics types take decades while other take centuries to degrade.

Plastic pollution has adverse effects on biodiversity and ecosystem productivity. Plastics can disrupt ocean ecosystems, lead to soil infertility, contaminate water sources, and have impacts on organisms’ health including human beings.

It is essential for individuals, industries, and governments to work together to find sustainable solutions and reduce the environmental impact of plastics.

History, use and problematic situation of plastics

Plastics have been extensively used in commercial activities since the 1940s and 50s. Since that time, plastics have initiated a new revolution in manufacturing and economic applications. Plastics are strong, lightweight, water-resistant, and durable inorganic materials derived from natural petroleum. The plastics are used in households, construction, packaging, healthcare, automotive, and more.

They are more durable than other materials and can easily be formed into any shape and this causes the environmental problems. Plastics remain in the environment for hundreds of years before finally degrading, and during that time, they can have adverse effects on the environment and living organisms. For example, disposable diapers and plastic bottles take 450 years to decompose when they are in the environment.

The increasing population and advancements have led to a higher demand for plastic products or products containing plastics. The resulting abundance of plastics in the environment ultimately poses threats to threats to the ocean ecosystem, soil fertility, air and water quality and human health.

Impacts on Ocean ecosystem

The primary environmental impact of plastic pollution is on the ocean ecosystem. Each year, 350-400 million tons of plastic products are made globally, 8-10 million tons of this plastic end up in the ocean annually.

Plastic pollution causes direct harm to marine organisms, including entanglement and ingestion when plastic is mistaken for food, resulting in injuries or fatal consequences. Additionally, it negatively impacts habitats, transmits diseases and reduces ecosystem productivity in the ocean.

Another concern is that when Plastic enters in natural habitats and breaks down there, it fragments into smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics. These microplastics can enter the food chains of various organisms.

Microplastics, along with the toxic chemicals they may carry, have detrimental effects on growth rates, food chains, metabolic processes, the nervous system, and can lead to reproductive and respiratory disorders in marine organisms.

Impacts on Human Health

While it is evident that humans are regularly exposed to plastics and their byproducts, the full extent of these exposures impact on human health is not yet fully understood.

Plastics can serve as carriers or vectors for diseases and pathogens, potentially leading to various health issues, including respiratory disorders or cancer.

There is still ongoing research in this area and more scientific study is required to understand its impacts on human health.

Impacts on Air Quality and Soil Fertility

Burning of plastic waste releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. When plastics break down into microplastics, they can become airborne particles, further exacerbating air quality concerns.

When plastics is dumped into land, they prevent proper aeration and moisture retention in the soil, hindering its fertility.

Overall the plastic pollution impacts all the components in environment. And if it remained untreated the future consequences would be catastrophic for our environment ad all living beings.

 Solutions

To solve plastic pollution, it is nearly impossible to eliminate plastic from human activities entirely. Instead, the focus should be on minimizing its use and finding sustainable solutions for recycling or degrading it so that it no longer poses a threat to the environment.

In this regard, governments should take comprehensive action to combat plastic pollution. This includes implementing and enforcing policies that promote responsible waste management, recycling, and proper disposal. Encouraging the shift to sustainable materials and supporting the development of safer, recyclable, or biodegradable polymers is crucial. Banning harmful chemicals in plastics is essential for environmental and human health protection. Measures like floating sea bins, incentives, and bans can help.

Individuals can contribute by avoiding bottled water, shopping sustainably, educating businesses, and supporting anti-plastic organizations. The 3 R's principle (reduce, reuse, recycle) and personal recycling efforts matter too.

Together, these actions can make a significant impact on plastic pollution.

Conclusion

The plastics are undeniably useful and have been used for multiple purposes in various fields since their discovery. The environment faces challenges primarily due to its extended degradation time.

Plastic pollution harms biodiversity and ecosystems by disrupting oceans, causing soil infertility, contaminating water, and impacting human and organism health.

Controlling plastic pollution requires the implementation of effective policies, promoting recycling activities, and encouraging the production of biodegradable plastic products. These measures can help mitigate the adverse effects of plastics on the environment, and human health.

Some Facts about plastics (source research articles)

·         Every year 20 billion water bottle s are tossed into trash.

·         More than 10 million tons of plastic enter the oceans annually (Jambeck et al. 2015)

·         More than 80 percent of marine litter is plastics (European Parliament 2019).

·         Nearly 8% of oil produced in world is used to make plastics.

·         Plastic pollution is predicted to increase by ≥ 600 MT by 2030 (UNEP-WCMC 2018).

About the Author: Sarmad is a passionate environmental student, photographer, and graphic designer dedicated to capturing the beauty of nature and advocating for its preservation.

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