We’ve all heard about the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, but sometimes it’s difficult to wrap our heads around just how scary the situation is. Here are five facts about plastic and its impact on the planet that will make you think twice before using that disposable coffee cup or straw.
1. Plastic never goes away
Plastic is a versatile and affordable material that has transformed the way we live. But it’s also a significant pollution problem. Plastic never goes away. It just breaks down into tiny microscopic pieces over time. As it does, it releases harmful chemicals into the environment and eventually ends up in our oceans and landfills, where it poses a serious threat to wildlife.
Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, so the plastic produced even a few decades ago is still with us today. And the amount of plastic waste being produced is only increasing.
Every year, we generate about 300 million tons of plastic waste, and less than 10% of it gets recycled. As a result, we’re drowning in a sea of plastic pollution, and it will take a concerted effort to turn the tide.
2. Plastic pollution is choking our oceans
Did you know there’s a place in the Pacific Ocean where the concentration of plastic debris is so high it’s been nicknamed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch?” This floating island of trash is twice the size of Texas and continues to grow daily as more plastic enters our oceans.
It’s an open secret that our oceans are in trouble. Pollution, overfishing, and climate change are all taking a toll on marine life, and the problem only worsens. Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year, severely damaging marine life and ecosystems.
According to a recent study, the amount of plastic in the ocean is expected to triple over the next two decades. This is a serious issue, and it’s one that we need to start taking more seriously.
There are some things we can do to reduce plastic pollution. First and foremost, we need to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics. We also need to make sure that our recycling efforts are actually practical. And finally, we must pressure businesses and governments to do more to address this problem.
3. Sea creatures are eating plastic…and we are too
As if the thought of a floating island of trash wasn’t bad enough, marine life often mistakes plastic for food, leading to digestive blockages, malnutrition, and even death.
Every year, tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans, where it threatens marine life and ends up on our plates.
So how does all this plastic end up in the ocean?
Much of it comes from land-based sources, such as coastal communities, where it is improperly disposed of or simply blown into the sea by the wind. Once in the water, plastic is carried long distances by currents and winds. It can also be ingested by marine animals, who then pass it up the food chain to us.
Studies have shown that micro-plastics are present in nearly all seafood sampled and that we may be ingesting as much as 11,000 pieces of microplastic each year. That means we’re inadvertently eating plastic too. Ew!
This is a cause for concern, as plastics contain harmful chemicals that may leach into our bodies.
4. Plastic is making animals sick
In addition to eating plastics, animals can get entangled in things like six-pack rings and fishing nets which can lead to injuries, pain, and even death. Even worse, when animals ingest or become entangled in plastic, they often end up releasing toxins into the environment, which pollutes our air and water supply.
5. All this pollution is killing us…literally
It’s not just animals being harmed by all this plastic—humans are suffering too. Pollution from plastic production and waste releases harmful chemicals into the air, which have been linked to various health problems, including cancer, respiratory disease, congenital disabilities, and more.
Remember these horrifying facts about plastic pollution the next time you reach for a straw or throw out that takeout container. Reducing your reliance on single-use plastics is one small way you can help make a big difference for our planet—and our health.