Plastic Pollution Basics

Did you know that every year 300 million tons of plastic are produced and from which only approximately 9% is recycled? So, have you ever thought about what happens to plastic when you throw them away?

Single-Use Plastics 101 | NRDC

Plastic pollution is the accumulation of synthetic plastic products in the environment that adversely affects human health, ocean health, the health of animals and birds, coastal tourism, food quality, and safety and contributes to climate change. Plastic pollution is known to be a pressing environmental issue around the world and the rapidly increasing production of plastic has overwhelmed the ability of the world to deal with them.

Where does all the plastic waste go?

This is the biggest question one needs to ask. If we keep on increasing plastic production, what does that mean for our world? It’s a common belief that most plastic ends up in the recycling facility but miserably this is not the truth. This ends up harming the environment. Sadly, seventy-nine percent of the plastic waste produced from plastic products lies around the oceans and landfills. Moreover, 88% of the plastic waste is found stranded, lingering along the beaches and shorelines, deep under the rocks and sand, or buried near the coastline. These mismanaged plastics enter the rivers and eventually get dumped into the water bodies.

These ten rivers carry greater than ninety percent of the plastic waste that ends up in the water bodies

Why does the plastic we use every day end up in the water bodies?

  • Throwing plastics in the bin instead of recycling them. Plastic that we put in the bin usually ends up in the landfill and during its transportation, it is usually blown away because plastic is very lightweight so it clutters around the drains and enters the water bodies.
  • Litter that is dropped on the street is carried with the wind and rainwater thus entering into the rivers and streams through drains
  • Sometimes the products we daily use are flushed down the toilets including cotton buds, sanitary products, and wet wipes. Some microfibers are sometimes even released into the waterways during laundry these microfibers cant be filtered out by the wastewater plants and are consumed by the aquatic species, therefore, ending up in our food chain.

How to reduce plastic pollution?

By using an integrated waste management hierarchy, the life cycles of plastics can be improved thus reducing plastic’s impacts on the environment

What government should do?

There are a variety of actions government can do:

  • Offering incentives for recycling
  • Running awareness campaigns for public
  • Banning the use of harmful plastic products or introducing levies

Industries, governmental organizations, and research institutions need to work collaboratively for the redesign of products and rethink the ways for their usage and disposal to reduce microplastic wastes from synthetic textiles, tires, pellets, etc.

Furthermore, society and consumers should shift to more sustainable consumption patterns. Solutions should be focused on managing waste by considering the whole lifecycle of the plastic infrastructure, household use, and the design of infrastructure.

Also, there is a need to increase funding for research and innovation to provide manufacturers, policymakers, and consumers with the evidence needed for the implementation of behavioural, technological, and policy solutions for addressing marine plastic pollution.