Plastic is a big part of the modern world. It’s used everywhere: construction, manufacturing, shopping, health care, food preparation, among others. But behind the plethora of advantages plastic offers is a towering pile of problems that mankind is struggling to solve: plastic pollution.
While no one can deny that plastic has changed human civilization for the better, it has also caused irreversible damage. This has sparked numerous debates among scientists, manufacturers, and environmentalists. And one question that frequently comes up is "Is plastic worth it?"
Plastic pollution has become a worldwide concern. Fishing boats report hauling up increasing amounts of plastic each year. And worst of all is that an alarming number of the fish they do haul up contain plastic inside their bodies. From this, we can assume that plastic has also made its way into our own homes.
In fact, research shows that almost the entire human race now contains plastic inside their bodies. Can you imagine? We ourselves are carrying around plastic, an unnatural, man-made material that DOES NOT belong inside of us.
Look around your home and you’ll see that so many of the things we own today and consider necessities are made of plastic. From the toys our children play with, to the containers we use to store food. But what we don’t see are the toxic chemicals that seep into our skin and bloodstream.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a compound commonly found in everyday plastic containers. Haven’t you ever wondered why some plastic baby products contain the label “BPA-Free”? That’s because the side effects of BPA toxicity can be very damaging to our bodies’ natural processes.
Fast facts on bisphenol A:
BPA has been linked to a number of health concerns, particularly in pregnant women, fetuses, and young children.Infants exposed to high levels of BPA had higher chances of developing obesity during later stages in life.
Plastic also contains phthalates, industrial chemicals that soften certain types of plastic (and sometimes used in cosmetics).
There are several cases linking phthalates to physical ailments. Below are some of them:
1. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system. This system controls our hormones. Moreover, it is a system that balances the other systems of the body, including our reproductive system.
2. Phthalates create a deficiency in zinc which, in turn, compromise the absorption of vitamins A and B6. A lack of these vitamins can increase aging and put you at risk of cancer, depression, and heart disease.
3. Phthalates reduce the production of catalase in our bodies. Catalase helps to suppress the growth of cancer and prevent it from spreading.
Common household products containing phthalates: plastic food containers, baby formula and baby food, pesticides, perfumes, infant care products, and vinyl products.
As the saying goes: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
But in the case of plastic, what we’re not seeing is causing an imbalance in nature’s natural cycle and threatening the lives of millions of animals. Researchers have even gone so far as to say that plastic has outnumbered plankton 6-to-1. And this was way back in 2009. Today, who knows how many plastic particles are in our oceans.
With that said, can we really afford not to think about the impact of plastic pollution on our planet?
How many more animal species must go extinct before we realize how serious the problem is? And with the overwhelming evidence that already exist today, how much damage are we waiting to happen for us to take action?
The most commonly used types of plastic are derived from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. The extraction of these natural resources releases toxic air contaminants (benzene, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, etc.).
Some companies claim that plastics made from natural gas are green. But the truth is that nothing about plastic is green at all. The emissions still pose an environmental risk and pollute the air we breathe.
Almost all the wastes we produce on land end up in our oceans. And out of all the pollution found in seas, an estimated 60-90% is plastic debris.
The reason our oceans are becoming home to plastic garbage is because plastic is resistant to natural biodegradation processes. This means that the microbes that eat and break down organic matter do not recognize plastic as food.
Furthermore, much of the plastic pollution in our oceans are being ingested by marine lifeforms. Sea turtles, whales, and over a million seabirds die each year because of plastic ingestion and entanglement.
If we need proof to show how irresponsible we are with how we handle our garbage disposal, there's no greater proof than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This incredibly large collection of floating trash is increasing at a rapid pace that, like the Great Wall of China, it's becoming visible from outer space.
(Source: The Guardian)
Stop using plastic straws when eating or ordering out. If a straw is a must, consider buying reusable stainless steel straws.
Bring your own bag when grocery shopping. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade.
Stop chewing gum. Gum is made of synthetic rubber, which is technically still plastic.
Buy products in boxes instead of plastic bags. If you can find a version of your laundry detergent that's packed in a cardboard box, buy that instead of the plastic-packaged one.
Always reuse your plastic containers instead of disposing them after single use. You can use them to organize small items like paperclips, your sewing kit, or hair accessories.
Buy razors with replaceable blades instead of disposable razors.
Plastic pollution may be a growing concern, but that doesn't mean we can't do anything about it. We don't have to wait for our government to implement laws to improve recycling or reduce littering. We can start in our own homes today.
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