We all know the use and importance of plastics. If we say that the use of plastic items is a part of our life is not a false statement. Yes, we need plastic items from starting of the day till sleeping. Plastic has a wide range and it is commonly used by the consumers as well as by the industries also. Plastics are used from airplanes to life-saving equipment. Plastics have a lot of qualities as it is flexible, light in weight, moisture resistant, strong, long life and relatively inexpensive. These all qualities attract people to use plastic items but on the other side, plastics are very harmful to our environment. Plastic pollution is now a worldwide issue where every country is suffering very badly as it has a big role in changing the climate.
Invention of Plastic
The modern plastics started to be developed around 100 years ago. One of the earliest examples was invented by Alexander Parkes in 1855, who named his invention Parkesine which is known as celluloid. Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) was first polymerized between 1838 to 1872 and then a key breakthrough came in 1907 when the world’s first fully synthetic plastic Bakelite was invented in New York in 1907 by a Belgian American chemist Leo Baekeland. Many chemists have contributed to the materials science of plastics, including Nobel laureate Hermann Staudinger who has been called “the father of polymer chemistry” and Herman Mark, known as “the father of polymer physics”
Production and consumption of plastic products rise after the 1970s. Till that time, plastic wastages were manageable but after that, the production of plastic, the uses of plastic and the wastages of plastics have been increasing year by year. At the end of the 1990s, plastic waste generate more than triple as compared to the last 20 years and in the early 2000s, plastic waste increased than it had in the previous 50 years. If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Plastic is very slow to degrade that’s why plastic wastages are increasing day by day. It pollutes land as well as oceans. From the whale, sea lions, and birds are greatly affecting. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, plastic wastage kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually, as well as millions of birds and fishes.
Causes of Plastic Pollution
We all are using plastic products in our daily life so we all contributing our share in plastic pollution which is the main cause of climate change. Here are some major contributors to this problem today include:
Plain Old Trash
Now a day plastic is everywhere, from tea bags to milk cartons to water bottles to straw to packaged food and everywhere. Every time one of these items get thrown away either on land or on the oceans and the result is, the toxic pollutants have more of a chance to enter the soil, in the water and in the environment which affects human life, wildlife and groundwater, and source of groundwater also. So the minimum we use plastic in our daily life, the pollution will be in control.
Commercial fishing is a part of every country’s economy and is a great source of employment in many parts of the world. But the sad part is, the fishing industry has a big role to contribute to the problem of plastics pollution in the oceans in several ways. The nets used for certain large-scale trolling operations are usually made of plastic. First, these nets spend long times submerged in water and due to this, toxins are leaking and spread in the water which pollutes water. They also often get broken up or lost, left to remain wherever they fall. This not only kills and harms local wildlife but also ensures that pollutants enter the water and fish of the area.
Disposing of Plastic and Garbage
Disposing of plastic is also a major contributor as plastics are made by chemicals that take years to dispose of. Burning or landfill, both are incredibly toxic which can lead to harmful atmospheric conditions and deadly illness. Plastic never stops releasing toxins in that area. The process of recycling plastic can also lead to plastic irritants being released in many ways.
Serious Effects of Plastic Pollution
It is proved that plastic is more harmful than useful. Although we are now habitual of using plastic products but we can change our habit if we want to otherwise our new generation will not get pure water and pure oxygen because the plastic pollution is rapidly increasing which affects our environment and even the major contributor to climate change. It is leading to long-term issues for plants, animals, and people. Some of the major long-term effects of plastic pollution are:
It Upsets the Food Chain
A tiny part of plastic is also harmful. Because plastic is made by fossils, animals eat plastics by mistake which can harm their bodies. Fishes also consume thousands of tons of plastic annually which is harmful. When this chain becomes poisoned due to plastic ingestion, the food chain will be disturbed. Everyone will be affected directly or indirectly.
Groundwater Pollution and Level
We are already struggling with scarcity of water, pure water – groundwater. It is already a big issue – the world’s biggest issue. In this issue also, plastic has an important role. As you know the plastic lives for many years and it’s leaking for years. Have you ever think what happened when raining?
Plastic is everywhere which already covered our land like a bad sheet. When it rains, it stops rainwater to go to the under the land. That’s why the groundwater level is going down day by day. Plastic always spread toxins so when it’s raining, rainwater also gets polluted and the result is groundwater pollution. Animals, birds, and plants consume this toxin water which is harmful to all.
When plastic is dumped in landfills, it interacts with water and forms hazardous chemicals. When these chemicals seep underground, they degrade the water quality. The wind carries and deposits plastic from one place to another, increasing the land litter. It can also get stuck on poles, traffic lights, trees, fences, towers, etc. and animals that may come in the vicinity and might suffocate them to death.
For disposing of, many people burning the plastic in the open air which leads to environmental pollution due to the release of poisonous chemicals. The polluted air when inhaled by humans and animals affect their health and can cause respiratory problems.
It Kills Animals
As plastic is made by fossils, by-mistake many animals eat plastic and due to this, they get ill or maybe died. There are a lot of incidents we have seen in the past that whale, shark, and a lot of mammals died due to plastic. Oceans are full of plastic garbage. Sometimes sea animals stuck in the fishing net and harm their bodies. Plastic pollution does a lot of damage to the world’s ecosystems.
Here are some interesting facts about Plastic Pollution
- Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century
- According to a report from the Guardian, an estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s — that’s equivalent to the weight of more than 800,000 Eiffel Towers
- Kenya introduced one of the world’s toughest laws against plastic bags in 2017
- According to National Geographic, 73% of all beach litter is plastic
- One million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute
- Between 500 billion and 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually
- According to the World Economic Forum researchers, just 10 rivers across Asia and Africa carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the oceans. Eight of these rivers are in Asia
- According to the United Nations, ingestion of plastic kills an estimated 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year
- More than 90% of all birds and fish are believed to have plastic particles in their stomach
- The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas
There is no treatment for plastic pollution. Only the use of plastic is the solution which is in the consumer’s hand. Plastic pollution is just like diabetes where precaution is a treatment because there is no medicine in diabetes. Plastic pollution is also like that. The less we use of plastic, the less environment will pollute.
You can also read about Plastic Pollution.