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  • Subject Name : Environmental Science

The Problem with Plastic Waste

Plastic waste refers to plastic pollution of the environment which takes place when plastic waste materials such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws, etc. accumulate in and on the Earth's environment in a manner that adversely harms not only wildlife and wildlife habitats but also human beings (Chow et al, 2017). Plastic pollution can also take place when a significant amount of plastic waste is not recycled and rather ends up in landfills or unregulated dumpsites. This means that a majority of plastic waste simply ends up in the ocean and this causes massive damage to the ecosystem.

The rapid hike in plastic use and consumption among human beings is primarily due to the changing economic development which then results in changing patterns of consumption. Rapid urbanization and economic growth in various countries across the world have led to a substantial rise in the production of plastic across the world. This is mainly due to the low recycling value plastic has and the lack of technological support which eventually means that the recovery rate of plastic is also very low (Chow et al., 2017).

The composition of plastic constitutes heavily toxic chemicals such as phthalates, antimony trioxide, poly-fluorinated chemicals, brominated flame retardants, and bisphenol A (BPAP which have the potential to cause adverse effects on both the environment as well as public health (Alabi et al., 2019).Alabi et al. (2019) further explain that roughly 165 million tons of plastic waste is estimated to have been present in the world's oceans in 2012. During the plastic degradation process, toxic chemicals such as BPA and polystyrene are resealed into the ocean which then causes water pollution. The total waste present in the ocean comprises 80% of plastic waste. This not only kills marine animals but also heavily disrupts the ecosystem and biodiversity and has a huge impact on climate change. Furthermore, the disruption of marine life and the disruption in the ecosystem are among the causes of natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes (Animal Ethics, 2020).

To ensure that less or no plastic ends up in the ocean or landfills, human activities need to be monitored and mitigated. Also, at an individual or household level, people can make more conscious decisions such as reusing plastic bags which are already present inside the house. Taking one's bag to grocery shopping instead of purchasing new ones each time is also solution this problem. Other unconscious decisions such as using plastic straws, plastic cups, and plates, etc. may seem minor issues, however, they add up to the larger problem due to mass consumption.

It is important to be conscious of one's activities especially when it comes to purchasing goods (Animal Ethics, 2020). Supporting organically made items over cheap plastic ones is one's contribution to help solve the larger problem of plastic waste. When consumers altogether stop purchasing plastic products, there will be no demand for it. Hence, there will be no supply. There is a massive supply of plastic goods in the modern day due to the massive demand, however, being a responsible global citizen and deciding not to contribute to the problem but rather work towards solving it is a positive step towards achieving a plastic-free environment.

The single most direct way to start reducing plastic pollution on a personal or individual level is to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Single-use plastic includes plastic bottles, plastic bags, cups, straws, etc. Secondly, it is important to ensure all plastic waste is deposited in the correct recycling bins. Also, participation in clean-up drives in various areas including beaches is an effective way to contribute to cleaning up plastic waste and ensuring that it is directed towards the right places to recycle instead of entering the ocean and harming aquatic life.

Plastic waste is a leading global issue that has resulted in various climate change problems, especially related to ocean-related disasters such as hurricanes, floods, etc. The increasing rate of urbanization and development has led to massive demand and supply of plastic which mostly ends up in the ocean and landfills. Plastic waste releases harmful toxins in the environment/ocean which poses serious public health issues. Individuals ought to learn to act responsibly and make conscious andinformed decisions when it comes to plastic products. Avoiding the use of single-use plastics, recycling plastic, and boycotting plastic products completely from one's life has the potential to heavily contribute to the issue of plastic waste. Switching to more organic options or making-do when and where possible is among the many alternatives to plastic.

References

Alabi, O., Ologbbonjaye, K., Awosolu, O. &Alalade, O. (2019). Public and environmental health effects of plastic wastes disposal: A review. Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, 5(1), 1-13. Animal Ethics.(2020). Animals in natural disasters. Retrieved from https://www.animal-ethics.org/animals-natural-disasters/

Chow, C., So, W., Cheung, T. &Yeung, S. (2017). Plastic waste problem and education for plastic waste management.Emerging Practices in Scholarship of Learning and Teaching in a Digital Era, 125-140

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