Plastic is now part of most peoples everyday lives. While it is clearly evident that plastics bring many societal benefits there is also a darker side to this convenient substance. There are growing concerns about the volume of usage, methods of disposal and the side effects of chemical transfer to wildlife and humans
Convenient when we are out they may be, but, plastic bottles, drinking straws and disposable coffee cups are particularly problematic. Many of these items are discarded; at the best in general set for landfill or incineration waste; at the worst discarded as litter.
- An estimated 35 million plastic drinks bottles sold in Britain every day but only half are currently collected for recycling.
- Daily, 7 million disposable coffee cups and their lids are thrown away, but only 1 in 400 are recycled (that leaves 6.98m going to landfill or ending up in the environment).
UK alone, an average of 3.5m drinks are sold with plastic straws every day just by McDonald’s, factor in all the others and that is a colossal amount of plastic – most of which is not recycled.
The effects of the over use of plastic are far reaching
- Accumulation of waste in landfills
Plastic does not fully biodegrade, consequently every piece of plastic ever made is still in out environment. While all this plastic is languishing in landfill sites around the globe the fact that these products potentially leaking pollutants into the soil and water is largely ignored.
- Accumulation of waste in natural habitats
A large proportion of plastics that are not disposed of properly ends up in natural habitats. The result is that plastics often consumed by wild animals and marine creatures this causes physical problems and frequently fatal consequences resulting from ingestion of plastic items.
stimates suggest that there are at least 100 millions tons of plastic debris floating in the oceans threatening the health and safety of marine life. Disturbingly, environmentalist groups have warned that there will be for plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.
- Consumption by wildlife
Many marine animals, such as sea turtles mistake plastic waste for a viable source of food, this can result in intestinal blockages. Plastic pollution is also responsible for the deaths and decline in the sea bird population.
- Wildlife entanglement in plastic
Abandoned nets, drinks can connectors and other plastic items are the cause of distress injury and death of many marine creatures.
Fish, and other marine creatures that brings in water through its gills, are known to be at risk to contamination from microscopic plastic debris. A number of studies have found the fish humans consume have ingested plastic microfibers.
What can be done? Is it too late? ….. It doesn’t have to be…action steps can be taken to help alleviate the problems.
- Reduce: your use of single use plastics, carry a bag to eliminate the need for a carrier bag, use a refillable water bottle, take your own coffee in a thermos cup. Consider food packing options.
- Reuse: save plastic food boxes and take away cartons to store food and other items.
- Recycle: don’t add to the land fill problem, recycle at home and if it can’t be recycled when you are out – bring it home with you.
- Refuse: refuse unnecessary plastic items, don’t just accept that drinks straw, carrier bag or other item.