By Emilia Todinca
We are surrounded by more plastic than we imagine. From getting a coffee to driving a car, in some part, plastic is part of the process.
The irony at the plastic’s creation only now can be understood. People thought that no longer being limited to natural elements they would reduce the strain upon harvesting. But we know now that plastics ended up harming the environment. Of course, they did provide for a growth in economic and social liberties. (Chemical Hertiage Foundation -)
Because of World War II, plastics began to replace many items, and in the second part of the 20th century, people began buying it more and more. From the 1960’s, plastics were found in the ocean. Since then, people have grown more aware of the danger this substance poses upon the environment, given its extremely long life.
Today, the ocean contains an estimated 51 trillion microplastics. (The 5 Gyres Institute -) What are microplastics you might ask. Well, they are small pieces of just a few millimetres, which mostly, thanks to UV radiation, are what becomes of the plastic that arrives in the oceans. (Kershaw 2015) And we must realize that the toxic substances of the plastic are dispersed as they degrade. (The 5 Gyres Institute -)
If you think that the plastic in the oceans could not come from you, you should know that 95% of it comes from land. The rivers take the plastic all the way into the open waters, where they further on aggregate in 5 systems driven by wind, called gyres. (The 5 Gyres Institute -)
For the plastics to degrade to just a few millimetres, it takes many years. In the meantime, the plastic can be eaten by or hurt fishes, turtles, sea lions or other marine life. An important consequence of this is that the toxins from the plastic can be transmitted to humans if ingested. (Schilling 2014)
You can recycle and therefore do the best you can, but the companies might not keep their end of the bargain, as it is not worth their while to do so. In 2014, only 10% of plastic was recycled. (Schilling 2014)
We cannot eliminate all the plastic, and we should still use it in domains like technology or medicine. But we should not allow it to become this overwhelming heap which endangers our health. (Chemical Hertiage Foundation -)
We cannot leave this problem to the future. By 2050, the weight of marine plastic will outweigh the fishes in the ocean. (The 5 Gyres Institute -) We have to start now. Make small changes. Talk to people. Say no to using a straw. Use reusable grocery bags. It adds up. Hopefully we will able to leave a more sustainable planet to the next generation.