Contaminating our oceans and land, endangering our animals, and sticking around for decades, plastic is one of the biggest problems the environment is facing right now.
In developing countries, there are rarely any waste systems and landfills: even the few that exist aren’t functional. Even in more established countries, using plastic and choosing not to recycle contributes to the contamination.
Plastic is made from organic materials like coal, gas, crude oil, and cellulose through a process called polycondensation. Plastic has been used for over a century, with its use accelerating after WWII. Revolutionizing medicine, aiding scientific research, and being the foundation for so many products, our world today would be unimaginable without plastics. Not only are plastics cheap, they are also more convenient. More than 40% of the plastic manufactured every year is used once and thrown away. Even though plastic items are only being used for a day, they will contaminate the environment for decades, or even centuries.
The plastic waste that is not properly discarded is buried or littered across oceans, lakes, and rivers. In the Northern Pacific Ocean, there is a concentration of waste nearly twice the size of the state of Texas called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. When animals ingest the plastic and get entangled in this human waste, it creates endangerment. One of the main plastic items that cause this is “single use” plastics. This includes water bottles, spoons, grocery bags, and cups - which all have environmentally friendly, easily accessible alternatives.
Many countries have begun initiating laws that would ban single-use plastic. In some parts of Europe, one-time-use plastics have been banned. In counties in California, restaurants are barred from using non-compostable containers. Many African Nations and Indian states have also outlawed plastic bags, and they are not available in those countries anymore.
With the world moving in a positive direction towards understanding that plastics are a big problem in our ecosystem, there are ways to help make our world safe for everyone.