Plastic is a huge part of our life. It keeps our DoorDash orders warm, fills our Amazon boxes, and inspires our wrap rage when we’re trying to open clamshell packaging. Unfortunately, our plastic dependence comes at a steep price. Let’s take a look at how plastic is doing us more harm than good.
1. Most Plastic Ends Up In Landfills
While all plastic can be turned into something new, picking it up, sorting it, and melting it down is expensive. Plastic tends to degrade every time it’s reused, meaning it can only be reused once or twice. Making new plastic, however, is cheap and hugely profitable. The oil industry makes around $400 billion a year from plastic. As a result only 8% of plastic put in the recycling bin is recycled, 16% is incinerated, and a whopping 76% ends up in landfills.
2. Plastic Takes Over 400 Years to Decompose
The chemical bonds that make-up plastic are not easily destroyed. Plastic decomposition rate is typically 500 to 600 years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every piece of plastic ever sent to landfills or dumped in the environment still exists.
3. Negative Effect on Human Health
Humans unknowingly consume microplastics from contaminated seafood, drinking bottled water, and even eating food grown plastic polluted soil. We also absorb plastic by wearing synthetic fabrics, and breathing air contaminated by incinerated plastic. Ingesting microplastics has been linked to health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
4. Plastic Harms Animals
We have all seen the images of baby ducks or turtles trapped in six-ring plastic can holders, but plastic pollution also creates toxins that poisons animals and destroys ecosystems.
5. Plastic Disrupts the Food Chain
Plastic pollution affects us all, even the tiniest organisms. For example, when planktons are poisoned by plastic ingestion the larger animals that depend on them for food are put in danger. This problem persists up the food chain, slowly devastating the animal kingdom.
6. Plastic Pollutes Our Land, Air, and Water
When plastic is dumped in landfills it interacts with rainwater and forms hazardous chemicals. These toxins can seep into the ground, harming groundwater and reservoirs. The wind can also carry plastic deposits out of landfills, increasing land litter. When plastic is burned in open air it releases poisonous chemicals, affecting the respiratory health of animals and humans. Additionally, plastic makes up most of the pollution in our oceans. This has endangered many marine species and the animals, including humans, that consume them.
7. Cleaning Up Plastic is Expensive
Cleaning up plastic affected areas costs millions of dollars a year. Finding places to put garbage is increasingly becoming a problem in many parts of the world. In addition, excess pollution leads to a decrease in tourism, which can impact the economies of areas damaged by plastic pollution.
We can all move closer to solving the problems caused by plastic by taking small steps. This may look like bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, skipping the bottled water, or supporting companies like No. 2 that are committed to making plastic free products, packaged in 100% recycled paper.
Through personal accountability we can end our addiction to plastic and create a cleaner world for all life forms.