The term plastic embraces a huge range of man-made synthetic polymers that can be used to make anything from fabric to varnish by way of cars and crisp packets.
In addition to being adaptable, synthetic plastics are
- extremely robust
- rot proof.
Because plastic is so cheap and versatile we use it for just about everything – including one use throwaway objects and packaging.
In the UK alone we generate 3 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, 56% of which is used packaging, three-quarters of which is from households. (waste on line)
We are creating huge amounts of rubbish which is extremely expensive to dispose of.
Disposing Of Plastic
Because plastic is a synthetic substance it doesn’t biodegrade.There are no natural processes in place that can absorb plastic back into the biological cycle. This means that plastic lasts for decades, maybe centuries, possibly for ever.
It cannot be composted or left to rot where it is dropped or dumped like organic rubbish. Every bit of plastic rubbish has to be collected up and specially disposed of… and this isn’t easy.
- Burning it at best adds to global warming, at worst can release extremely toxic chemicals. It has to be done with care.
- Put it in landfills and it just sits there.
- Recycling is not always an option and it comes at a cost.
Everlasting Plastic litter
We use plastic for fast food packaging, sweet wrappers and disposable cups – things that are used for minutes before being discarded. Things that end up as litter… but because it is made out of plastic, has a life span of decades. We have created everlasting litter that is increasing exponentially with distressing consequences.
Perhaps the most obvious problem with plastic is our plastic trashed planet looks extremely ugly. Visit our FB gallery of world-wide plastic pollution to see some dirty pictures.
This everlasting litter is not just a visual blight but dangerous too.Plastic pollution is damaging our environment, wildlife and possibly our long term health.
- Drainage systems get blocked with plastic causing flooding,
- layers of plastic trash choke grasslands and lakes
- rivers and waterways get clogged with plastic debris.
- Animals sicken and die from eating plastic
- Chemicals leach from plastic into the environment and consumer.
Dirty Land Dirty Sea
Since the ocean is downstream, much of the plastic trash generated on land ends up there. ” It has been estimated that 6.4 million tons of debris end up in the world’s oceans every year and that some 60 to 80 percent of that debris, or 3.8 to 5 million tons, is improperly discarded plastic litter “. Encyclopedia Brittanica.
Marine debris, a polite term for mostly plastic trash, is already a huge and troubling problem.
- Everyday tons of trash gets washed ashore and cleaning beaches is increasingly expensive.
- 70 percent of discarded plastic sinks to the bottom, smothering the sea bed and the bottom feeders who live there.
- Fish and sea birds ingest plastic which can kill them.
Tiny pieces of plastics are called micro plastic are being found in increasing numbers. They are being eaten by bottom feeders and are now entering the food chain.
Plastic particles in the sea also attract persistent organic pollutants a small set of toxic chemicals, Bottom feeders eat the plastic and so the POPs enter the food chain.
Floating plastic can carry animals and vegetation way beyond their natural habitat potentially leading to the introduction of invasive species into vulnerable habitats.
Plastic in the environment presents a danger to animals in a number of ways.
- They eat plastic trash mistaking it for food which causes internal damage and blockages.
- Even if the plastic doesn’t kill them outright a diet of plastic is nutrition free. Animals that eat plastic are underdeveloped and underweight.
- The chemicals in plastic can poison them.
- Many get tangled in plastic twine and ghost fishing nets and starve to death.
Killing Us Softly?.
Some of the chemicals used to make plastic have not actually been passed as fit for human consumption. More worrying still they leach from plastic into us.
Other plastics like PVC will, when burnt, release dioxin one of the most powerful carcinogens known.
Plastic particles attract persistent organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs are a small set of toxic chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods and accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals. Bottom feeders eat the plastic pellets and so the POPs enter the food chain.
Waste of Resources
Petrochemical based plastic is made from a non renewable resource – oil. Waste on-line states “ that 4% of the world’s annual oil production is used as a feedstock for plastics production and an additional 3-4% during manufacture.”Every year, Americans throw away some 100 billion plastic bags. It’s equivalent to dumping nearly 12 million barrels of oil.You can find a lot more statistics here…
So while plastic is a fantastic product with many wonderful applications, it has a dark side. Using to make one use disposable and short-life items that quickly end up as everlasting rubbish seems incredibly foolhardy.