Plastic pollution is the accumulation of synthetic plastic products in the environment because the majority of synthetic plastics are not biodegradable, they remain in ecosystems. Plastics impact severely wildlife and their habitats, as well as human populations, whereas, plastics have now become chronic polluters of environments, from mountain ranges to the sea. Indeed, plastic-polluted landscapes have become a prevalent issue in many parts of the world, as research from around the world has indicated the causes and effects of plastic pollution are a global issue. Let’s go deeper and discover more about the bad effects of plastic, the worst effects of plastic pollution and how to stop using plastic.
1. Why is Plastic a Problem?
Plastic is a problem since most of it isn’t biodegradable, meaning it doesn’t decompose like paper or food, and can thus remain in the ecosystem for hundreds of years. Every year, 400 million tonnes of plastic are generated, with 40% of that being single-use plastic; plastic that we will only use once before throwing it away. Plastic products, such as water bottles, straws, and food containers, have a very limited lifespan and are so cheap to produce that we don’t utilise them enough and they end up in landfills.
Furthermore, many lightweight single-use plastic items and packaging materials, which account for about 50% of all plastics manufactured, are not deposited in containers for subsequent disposal at recycling centres, or dumpsites; instead, they are tossed inappropriately to the nearest point when no longer beneficial to the consumer. When plastics are thrown out of a car window, piled on top of an already overflowing garbage bin, or pushed away by a gust of wind, they instantly begin to affect the ecosystem by being mistaken for food by animals, flooding low-lying areas by obstructing drainage systems, or just causing serious environmental damage. (See What are Two Examples of Human Environment Interaction?)
2. Why are Plastic Bags Harmful?
Plastic bags are difficult and expensive to recycle, and the majority end up in landfills, where they photodegrade for over 300 years.
- When animals swallow them, they degrade into small poisonous particles that pollute the ground and rivers and enter the food chain which leads to death.
- Plastic bags are non-biodegradable causing tremendous harm to our environment.
- Petroleum products are used to manufacture plastic bags which release harmful chemicals.
- Toxic substances are included in plastic food storage packaging which further degrades our health.
3. What are 5 Bad Things about Plastics?Photo by TomFisk on Pexels
5 bad things about plastics are:
- The massive volumes of plastic flooding oceans and other rivers kill ocean life.
- Plastic kills terrestrial fauna and hence damages the environment.
- Plastic consumes space and contributes to chemical pollution by forming microplastics.
- Plastic is derived from petroleum oil, which is not environmentally friendly, and oil is a non-renewable source of fuel that contaminates our air.
- There is a significant water requirement while producing plastic as one pound of plastic requires 22 gallons of water to produce.
4. What are Bad effects of Plastic?
Many of the chemicals present in plastics are endocrine disruptors, which can cause hormonal imbalances, reproductive problems, and even cancer. Microplastics can also release hazardous substances like BPA and phthalates. Both of these chemicals are known to interfere with hormones, and incorrect plastic disposal causes several issues. These are the bad effects of plastic:
- Plastic pollution in public places fosters unsanitary conditions by acting as a breeding ground for insects and mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue. This is one of the major bad effects of plastic.
- Because plastics do not decompose, they remain in the soil for many years, affecting soil fertility and degrading soil quality.
- When plastic items reach the drainage and sewage systems, they clog the pipes and drains, causing flooding.
- When animals eat poorly disposed of food bags, they develop stomach and bowel problems that can lead to choking and death.
- Plastic items make their way into rivers and other bodies of water, where they are swallowed by fish, seabirds, and other marine species, resulting in suffocation and death.
- Plastic industrial waste is dumped directly into bodies of water, changing the chemical properties of the water and posing risks on a massive scale.
5. What causes Plastic Waste?
Plastic is a synthetically produced compound that carries endless applications, but the biggest drawback of plastic is that it does not decompose so it ends up being dumped thus polluting the environment. The usage of disposable plastic or single-use plastic such as food wrapping, plates, bags, bottles etc is one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste.
Another major contributor to the bad effects of plastic is microplastics, which are plastic particles in other materials like tyres from cars, millions of cars run on roads and their tyres shed rubbers along with microplastics which ultimately contaminate the environment. Similarly, a lot of other day-to-day use products like personal care products, synthetic clothes, and paints all of these products adversely affect the environment by releasing microplastics into the environment. (Also read How has the Removal of Wetlands Impacted Rivers and Streams?)
6. How is Plastic Waste affecting the World?Photo by GWizUK on Pixabay
The bad effects of plastic waste have an adverse effect on the world as it does not decompose, therefore it stays in the environment polluting land and water by releasing toxins further threatening wildlife. Plastics are synthetically produced by chemicals which can be very toxic to living organisms. Plastic waste in oceans and seas disrupts marine life and causes irreparable damage to them. Hence we should take this issue seriously and try our best to get rid of the bad effects of plastic.
7. What are 10 Facts about Plastic Pollution?
The bad effects of plastic pollution have been exponentially increasing every moment on our planet owing to ignorance by people and a lack of proper laws and systems. Some lesser-known facts and the worst effects of plastic pollution are:
- The quantity of microplastic has increased 60 times in 15 years.
- About 73% of beach litter is plastic.
- Reports show that there will be more plastic than fish in oceans by 2050.
- Around 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute.
- Despite being illegal in many countries, 2 million plastic bags are used every minute.
- An average person consumes 70,000 microplastics every year.
- Dead zones created because of plastic pollution have quadrupled.
- It takes about 450 years to decompose.
- A study shows around 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean annually.
- Plastics are made from fossil fuels and hence are not sustainable and also this is the major reason why plastics release toxins.
8. What are the 3 Worst Effects of Plastic Pollution?
The three worst effects of plastic pollution are:
- Physical impacts on marine life include entanglement, ingestion, and hunger.
- Chemical impacts are the accumulation of persistent organic contaminants such as PCBs and DDT.
- Economic impacts include harm to fishing, shipping, and tourism.
Plastic production is increasing, which causes issues in many aspects of our society. It contributes to waste and pollution problems which posses harm and endanger our oceans and wildlife. Check out What are Some Ways to Conserve Resources at Home?
9. How does Plastic Pollution affect Humans?Photo by Thirdman on Pexels
Plastic is a chemically produced synthetic material that stays in the environment for a very long. Since it is chemically produced it releases toxins that are very harmful to humans. Microplastics released can enter our bodies through breathing or through eating which often are linked to daunting problems like cancer, heart issues, birth defects etc.
10. Why should You Stop using Plastic?
Now you must be wondering why and how to stop using plastic. We need to stop using plastic because it causes a variety of issues, including pollution, wildlife extinction, health hazards, and excessive waste creation. Furthermore, they are difficult, non-biodegradable, and expensive to recycle, and the majority end up in landfills, where they degrade into small poisonous particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and harm flora and fauna. Plastic waste isn’t the only issue with using plastic; a lot of energy and Earth’s resources are used to generate plastic in the first place.
For example, numerous steps are involved in producing the bottle, filling it with water, shipping it to retailers, and finally to your home; generating bottled water requires 2,000 times the energy required to produce tap water. Given the amount of plastic waste we produce and the length of time it lingers in the environment, it’s easy to see why environmentally conscious people believe it’s essential that we decrease our use of plastic as much as possible. Although eliminating plastic from our life is likely impossible, there are important steps we can take to decrease its use so that it further reduces the bad effects of plastic pollution:
- Choose the paper bag at the supermarket, or even better, bring your reusable shopping bags.
- When you’re thirsty, instead of reaching for a plastic bottle of water, take your water bottle.
- If you must need to use plastic bottles on occasion, repurpose them rather than discard them.
- If you no longer want a plastic toy, you can give it to a charity, some plastic toys are even recyclable; look for the plastic recycle label.
Even though plastic is all around us, it is vital to seek out plastic alternatives wherever possible. When there are no plastic alternatives, recycle it rather than throw it away. (See What is Sustainability and Why is it Important?)