The effects of plastic on the environment and human health are overwhelming and need to be controlled. Due to the lack of appropriate disposable methods of plastic, it is unable to be strictly controlled. Plastic trash gets sent to landfills whereby three things occur;
- Plastic is processed into microplastic which is used to manufacture cheaper low-grade products which also release toxins harmful to human health.
- Plastic is burned and, in the process, emits toxic gases into the atmosphere which is harmful to the planet and to human health.
- Plastic is recycled and reused.
The two key characteristics that make plastic so difficult to replace is the usefulness of its lightweight and durability. Synthetic plastic is not biodegradable but is photodegradable. This means that the majority of plastic will never disappear. Instead, over time, plastic breaks down into ‘plastic dust’ or ‘micro plastic’ which absorbs and releases harmful toxins which contaminate our water, soil, aquatic and land wildlife and human health.
With more than 8 million tonnes of plastic landing in the ocean every year, the amount of microplastic particles is said to exceed 500 times more stars in our galaxy. Aquatic mammals easily mistake plastic for food and ingest them or become entangled by plastic. If they survive the ingestion without choking, then it is likely their digestion system will begin to block and will eventually die a slow and painful death due to toxicity or digestive blockages. This negative impact on sea life has dire consequences on the ecology of the ocean, in that, too many abnormal changes in death rates of one species will easily threaten the existence of another species or organisms. Click here to discover ways to help protect the ocean and save marine life, all from your own home.
Microplastics found on the shore. Photo credit: 5 Gyres Institute
LAND AND WILDLIFE
A lot of plastic lands up in natural wilderness areas due to human littering or they are carried by the wind. The inability of plastic to biodegrade means that wild animals and birds will find them and ingest them. This causes a slow and suffering death. Animals will either suffocate on the plastic or it will cause them to starve to death since their intestines are blocked by the consumed plastic. It is estimated that plastic is the cause of death of one animal every three months. This disrupts the balance of the natural ecosystem’s trophic pyramid and destroys the life that depends on that fragile ecosystem. Plastic debris absorbed by the ground inhibits soil nutrients and prevents the growth of botanic life.
“Safaris of the Future if we don’t stop littering!”
Photo credit: one green planet
There is more and more concern for the adverse effects and health risks of plastic on the human population. Chemicals are used in the manufacture of plastic to alter the properties of plastic to be softer, harder or change colour. Humans are exposed to three channels of toxic threat namely through air and water, food sources like seafood and direct contact with plastic products. Toxins deriving from plastic are said to be linked to cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, and respiratory and endocrine problems to mention a few.
We need to take a stand against plastic pollution and in so doing, effect positive change in the world. Drink tap water filtered by a water filter or from a water filter jug. Try and refrain from buying water where possible. Opt for glass containers and most importantly don’t litter. Keep our natural environments clean for future generations. Shift your mindset from “it’s not my job to pick up someone else’s litter” to, “I’m doing this for the planet and because I am a guardian of Nature.” All of EcoTraining’s programmes talk about the ecology of trophic pyramids and explain in greater detail the impact of our actions on the environment. Consider a nature course with EcoTraining and learn more about the natural environment.
Take a look at this video about ‘the story of bottled water’ by Annie Leonard. She shares with us how ‘manufactured demand’ pushes what we don’t need and destroys what we need most.