Plastic is an essential material in our society. It’s very cheap and has wide variety of applications in many products such as toothbrushes, credit cards, cosmetic bottles, cars, materials of packaging etc. But plastic pollution is becoming one of the most urgent environment issues in the world, especially in developing Asian and Africa nations. In these countries, the garbage collection and recycling system don’t run effectively. It can be said that wherever people present, there is plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is threating food safety, human health and significantly contributes to climate change.
Plastic pollution facts
- 50% of all plastic produced is for single-use purposes, use for just minutes and then thrown away
- 100% mussels tested have contained micro plastics
- 1 million marine animals are killed by plastic pollution every year
- Human eat over 40 pounds of plastic in their life
- At least 10 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. A lot of marine animals ingest or get stuck by plastic fragments, which cause injuries and deaths.
- About 2 million plastic bags are used every minute in the world
- Plastic take 20 – 500 years to decompose depending on the type of plastic (PET, PVC, Styrofoam, etc.), structure and sunlight exposure
|Material||Time to decompose depending on environment condition|
|Plastic Beverage Bottles||Around 450 years|
|Styrofoam||Around 500 years|
|Plastic bags||Around 1,000 years for a plastic bag to degrade in a landfill|
|Leather shoes||Around 25-40 years|
- During Covid 19, single use plastics include surgical masks, gloves, food containers and plastic cups etc. are increasing because they have been necessary in supporting to prevent contamination.
This sentence: “There will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by 2050” said by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, will become our obsession in the coming time.
Plastic pollution effects
1. Affect to human health:
Microplastics (refer to tiny plastic fragments less than around 5 millimeters in length) have been found in fruits and vegetables, food containers and drink water bottles. As you know, the production process of plastic can contaminate many toxic chemicals such as Phthalate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies one type of phthalate, diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), as a possible cause of cancer.
Phthalates are used in a range of products, including:
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, which is a type of plastic used in products such as leather handbags, water pipes, rain coats, boots etc.
- Medical plastics, such as PVC IV bags and tubes
- Children’s toys
The impact of plastic on marine food chains also has potential impacts on human health.
2. Affect to biodiversity:
Macroplastic products, whole or in fragments, are large items that can be seen by the eye and include plastic bags, bottles, cups, lids, straws, containers and fishing nets etc. Macroplastics have been shown to cause physical harm to wildlife on the land and in the ocean. Macroplastics can block digestive system of wildlife animals or make them get stuck in so that they cannot move to get food. This issue results in breaking down the ecosystem balance.
3. Cause air, water and land pollution:
99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels. Transforming fossil fuel into plastic resins and additives releases carcinogenic and other highly toxic substances into the air and water. Effects of exposure to these substances include impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, leukemia, and genetic impacts like low birth weight.
Plastic in natural environment or on landfill sites break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain.
Plastic Pollution Solutions
– Reducing, Reusing and Recycling plastic products. For example:
- Reuse plastic bag instead of single use bags or use natural material bags
- Use bamboo straws replace to plastic straws
- Use bamboo bottle / glass bottle / stainless steel bottle instead of plastic bottle
- Use vegan material handbags instead of PVC leather handbags
- Use sustainable fashion (bamboo fabric, cotton or linen fabric) instead of fast fashion (Polyester fabric)
- Carry your own utensils
– Support for research and innovation to develop new products to replace single-use plastics
– Ban single use plastic, instead we should use eco-friendly products that made by natural materials
– Organize education program to increase environmental protection knowledge
– Plastic waste need to be classified in the proper way to recycle effectively
PLASTICS POLLUTION: A BREAKDOWN – SETAC SCIENCE BRIEF
Plastic And Health –The hidden costs of a plastic planet