Importance of Reducing Plastic Pollution

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Plastic is everywhere. Ever since it was invented, it has become a crutch for the world. As, we use it to carry our water, our groceries, encase our food, eat out of, and much more. It has become a primary role in our everyday lives, but the issue is that it is usually used once and thrown away. It is so easy to dispose of and has such a use that we take advantage of it without thinking of the possible impacts that it has on our Earth. More specifically, our oceans. There is no easy way to put it, plastic is toxic to our oceans. From the smallest microplankton to the biggest fish in the sea, plastic is a deadly killer. Yet, we still go on using and disposing of it into the ocean everyday. The amount of this killer in our ocean is steadily growing as some researchers estimate that by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish (Biological Diversity). It’s simple, this is not the way it should be and certainly not the way it should continue to be. So, with that said, action needs to be taken and plastic must be cleaned up and reduced.

The idea of plastic was a great one. It is cheap, strong, and easy to use. The 1950’s brought the invention of plastic (Jambeck). So, it has not been around for too long, not even a century. Yet, since 1975, global plastic production has increased by a whopping 620 percent. (Jambeck). We are consistently creating more and more plastic, and all of the plastic made, still exists. Instead of reusing the old, we have a habit of throwing it away and making more, forgetting that we are not getting rid of it, just simply putting it somewhere else.

Plastic was brought on by a need for a replacement of ivory. This was because billiard balls were becoming of higher and higher popularity. But, unfortunately the elephants could not keep up with this high demand (Jambeck). So, in 1863 a New York firm put out an ad offering 10,000 dollars for anyone who could provide a substitute for the widely popular material. As a result, John Wesley Hyatt came up with the beginning of what we know now to be plastic. He created a synthetic polymer made of cotton and nitric acid which he named celluloid. Celluloid was found to be very easy to mold and animal friendly, since it took away from the killing of the elephants.

However, it was highly flammable and dangerous to make, so accepting celluloid as the sole replacement was unrealistic. (Science History Institute) Celluloid was used until the first fully synthetic plastic was invented by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Looking to improve upon this and create an alternative to shellac, he created Bakelite. Bakelite was created as a result of wanting something that was good at insulating, heat resistant, durable, and easy to make. (Jambeck). As shellac was too hard and took too long to make, and Celluloid was high flammable and too dangerous. So, Bakelite proved to be an infamous answer to these problems and became the base of the plastics that we make today. These consist of but are not limited to, nylon, polyester, and PVC. (Science History Institute)

From this, plastic pollution roared. With the turn of World War II, what was cheap was what was best. And so, nylon became a hero through being used for parachutes, helmet liners, ropes, and body armor. (Science History Institute) Although the war brought plastic to high demand, the end of it did not bring it back down. From here, production levels of plastic remained high as more and more uses of it were found (Jambeck). And, it has stayed this way through current times. Plastic production hit a boom and it has not stopped since.

This has been an issue for a long time and is becoming a bigger and bigger issue as we speak. Which is why it must be discussed and action must be taken as fast as possible. More and more plastic is being produced and discarded of in a wrongful manner. 300 million tons of plastic are made by the world with more than a third of it being part of the category of “minimal use.” Minimal use meaning being discarded from a few seconds to one year (Doucette, 56). “In fact, 25 billion pounds of plastic in the United States go unaccounted for each year.” After thinking about this massive number, according to Anthony Andrade who is leading scientist who specializes in plastics that, “Except for a small amount that’s been incinerated every bit of plastic we’ve put in the oceans still remains…its still somewhere in the marine environment” (Doucette, 57).

This plastic going around in the marine environment proves to be a much bigger issue than the average person knows. According to the academic journal, “an ocean of plastic,” “Sea turtles mistake buoyant plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their main sources of prey, and choke to death” (Doucette, 55).Not to mention the various accounts of people finding straws and plastic forks painfully up the noses of innocent sea turtles. Kitty Doucette, author of an “Ocean of Plastic” writes, “The United Nations Environment Program estimates that plastic debris kills more than 100,000 marine meals and 1 million seabirds every year” (Doucette, 56).

In 2014, a study found that in fish markets in Indonesia and the United States, 1 in 4 fish were found to have plastic inside of them (Mosbergen). Not only is plastic pollution targeting these innocent animals directly, but it is also targeting them indirectly, through intoxicating the food that they eat. In a sample of 670 myctophids, which is a main source of food for larger fish, 1,298 pieces of plastic were found. Charles Moore, the commander of the research vessel Alguita, states, “its becoming the new diet…we’re putting everything in the ocean on a plastic diet.” (Doucette, 56).

All of this is getting worse, which is why all of us as humans need to discuss and address this issue. It is estimated that by 2050, 10 times more plastic each year is estimated to be dumped into our oceans (Ocean Plastics Pollution).With already 19 billion tons currently being dumped each year, this is an insane number (Mosbergen 1).There is no easy way to go about it, we are ruining our oceans. If we do not act now, then we are going to ruin our oceans past return. This was a yesterday, is a today, and should no longer be an issue. So we must act now.

However, there are still countries polluting the oceans. In 2017, a study from the Ocean Conservancy found that Indonesia, the Philppines, China, Thailand, and Vietnam were the top countries in terms of the ocean’s plastic pollution. (Leung) According to Alvin Li, cofounder of the sustainable products company Kommon Goods, “We’ve been so hardwired in Asia to prioritize convenience above all else.” Which is what plastic is, it is convenient and affordable. But, we are abusing it. Although they are ranked at the top of the list for killing the ocean, they are doing little to change. In 2018, countries like Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the European Union, and the United Kingdom signed an Ocean Plastics Charter. (https://g7.gc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/OceanPlasticsCharter.pdf)

As stated in the Ocean Plastics Charter, “The Ocean Plastics Charter is commitment to move towards a more resource-efficient and sustainable approach to the management of plastics” (Ocean Plastics Charter, 1). It is basically a plan to move towards a better future regarding plastic. It is facing the plastic issue head on and bringing the biggest countries together to make a difference. However, Japan and the U.S. declined to sign. No other Asian countries signed the charter either. This is a major red flag when it comes to plastic pollution as the biggest polluters do not even want to make a change. Especially, when they are the ones who need to the most.

In addition to the big countries, the people that live in them are also to blame. We are our own enemies. Through using one use plastics such as, but not limited to, grocery bags, plastic cups, and plastic utensils. 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away. Driving down the highway, seeing how much plastic has been discarded is disgusting. And, most of it makes its way into the ocean. First through making it to a river and then eventually finding its way into the ocean. As, 80% of plastic in the ocean is leaked from land based sources (Mosbergen, 3). Honestly, it is from carelessness. From people being at the beach, letting the ziplock bag from their sandwich go, and not thinking about the possible impact they will have while it stumbles into the ocean. We put our carelessness over the ocean.

So, the answer to all of this, is that we must make a change. We must change the way that we talk about plastic, by talking about it more and being productive when we do. On a global level, we must put together movements to get the bigger countries’ attention so that they will sign the Ocean Plastic Charter. We also must change the way we use plastic in our everyday lives. We need to look for better alternatives and make sure that we are responsible with the plastic we do use. If you see a piece of plastic fluttering in the wind, pick it up and recycle it. It might sound like a bold statement, but you could be saving a sea creatures life. Through making efforts in the positive direction of plastic pollution we can truly make a difference. Since the problem is so big, many think that it is a lost cause and too big a task to take on.

However, there are people taking on the challenge. For example, Jim Holm and Swaminathan Ramesh have developed a system to start curing the ocean of plastic. They have created a small, mobile reactor which takes plastic waste in the ocean and turns it directly into diesel. The reactor can be carried on the back of a boat to collect the plastic and then use it to fuel the engine, or to be sold. Holm states that, he’s “..just trying to reach people where they’re human…most of us want to make a profit.” And, that is exactly what the reactor does, it makes a profit through cleaning up the ocean. They soon hope to go global within the next five or ten years which will hopefully be a turn for the best. This just goes to show that we can make a difference if we try. Any bit of plastic removed from the ocean or prevented from being in the ocean is an amazing step in the right direction (Eriksen et al).

Like I had stated before, the idea of plastic is a great one. It is plastic in itself that is bad and toxic. Plastic was made as a replacement for a crisis that was happening in 1863. It is now 2018 and the crisis that is facing us is the toxification and ruining of the oceans that plastic brings. Our oceans and what live within them are becoming ruined by plastic and the only way to help them is to reduce our plastic intake and disposal as well as cleaning up what we have put out. Plastic is an overwhelming problem, but through the right steps it is a problem that can be answered. And so, unless we want more plastic in the ocean than fish, we must come together to answer this alarming problem.

Cite this paper

Importance of Reducing Plastic Pollution. (2021, Apr 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/importance-of-reducing-plastic-pollution/

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