Plastic Pollution - Definition, Effects & How We Can Prevent It
Plastic has become one of the most important petroleum products used to manufacture thousands of products in almost every sector. Popular products include packaging, diapers, toys, cellphones, textiles (such as polyester), and construction material (such as acrylic, polypropylene, and polycarbonate).
However, if you’re unaware, plastic is a non-recyclable, non-biodegradable material, meaning it won’t decompose even after hundreds of years. This makes it a serious threat to our environment from a waste management perspective.
As the world’s population and the neglect of plastic pollution grow, so does plastic waste in our homes, cities, landfills, and oceans. Therefore, now is the time to step up and make a difference in our lifestyles and behavior to undo some of the damage to our environment and protect our planet for the future.
Keep reading to learn more about plastic pollution, its causes & effects, and ways to minimize or prevent it.
What is Plastic Pollution?
Plastic pollution simply refers to the mass accumulation of plastic waste, such as bottles, food wrappers, straws, cigarette butts, containers, and grocery bags, to name a few. More importantly, it describes the impact of plastic waste on wildlife, humans, and the global ecosystem.
Undoubtedly, plastic is one of the most innovative and versatile human inventions of all time. However, it has become a massive problem that must be dealt with since it doesn’t break down. This means that it continues to hang around in our environment and harm everything in its path through chemical leaching, entanglement, ingestion, and other destructive ways.
Main Causes of Plastic Pollution
Here are the main causes of plastic waste:
1. Excessive Use of Single-Use Plastic and Reckless Disposal
Due to its immense versatility and cost benefits, plastic has become the go-to choice for product packaging and casing. With so many use cases, the use of plastic is becoming more than our landfills and recycling facilities can handle.
Moreover, single-use or disposable plastics have become an integral part of the convenience age, resulting in a culture where people don’t need to reuse or properly dispose of wrappers, plastic bags, and containers.
2. Poor Waste Management
Inadequate plastic waste collection and recycling is another major cause of plastic pollution, especially in developing countries, where governments lack the technology or resources to carry out mass recycling programs.
3. Marine Shipping and Fishing
When it comes to ocean pollution, the shipping and fishing industries are mainly to blame for plastic rubbish ending up in water from ships, sea accidents, and even fishing nets. Apart from direct ingestion, plastics can harm marine life and the environment by leaching toxins into the water.
Effects of Plastic Pollution on the Ecosystem
Now that you understand the main causes of plastic waste in our environment, let’s check out the negative effects of this mass plastic accumulation:
1. Health Issues
When marine animals ingest toxins found in plastic, they can pass on the negative effects of these toxins to us when we consume plastic-contaminated seafood. According to Gesamp, over 114 marine species have been harmed by microplastics in rivers and oceans.
Apart from seafood, we consume nearly 5 grams of plastic yearly through food packaging. When ingestion reaches a dangerous level, it can result in severe health complications, such as cancers, congenital disabilities, respiratory issues, obesity, and immunity impairment.
2. Food Chain Disruption
Plastic comes in every size imaginable. However, microbeads cause more harm than shopping bags and bottles. Planktons, one of the world’s tiniest organisms, are easily harmed due to microbead ingestion and kick-start a major disruption in the food chain as they’re a primary food source for small fish species.
3. Urban Pollution
When plastic is dumped in trash cans, buildings, and roads, the wind carries and deposits them all around urban cities. As a result, you can find shopping bags stuck on poles, trees, and traffic lights, and empty bottles in fountains and alleys.
4. Expensive Cleanup
Regardless of the location, it costs millions of dollars each year to clean plastic-polluted areas and minimize or reverse some of the damage caused to the ecosystem. Unfortunately, many developing nations don’t have the financial resources to invest in large-scale cleanup and recycling initiatives. As a result, their cities are polluted with plastic litter.
5 Ways to Minimize or Prevent Plastic Pollution
Now that you’re up to speed with the causes and effects of plastic pollution, let’s check out 5 ways we can minimize or prevent plastic waste:
1. Stop Using Disposable Plastic Products
The first way to reduce, minimize, and prevent plastic pollution is to limit or eliminate the use of single-use or disposable plastic products. This includes cups, spoons, beverage bottles, straws, and shopping bags. Alternatively, you can opt for paper cups/straws, cloth bags, and glass bottles.
2. Stop Buying Packaged Water
Every year, nearly 20 billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills. This is due to our on-the-go lifestyle, which prompts us to buy packaged water and dispose of the bottle as soon as it’s empty. While we’re not saying you should stop consuming branded water, we recommend either filling or refilling plastic bottles with water from your home instead of buying a new one to quench your thirst every time.
3. Cook More
Another source of plastic pollution is food delivery packaging which typically comprises plastic containers, sheets, cutlery, and bags. Therefore, another great way to reduce plastic pollution is cooking at home, which typically involves using ceramic plates, metal cutlery, and glass cups.
One of the best ways to prevent plastic pollution is to recycle. Today, less than 14% of plastic waste ends up in a recycling facility. So, by becoming more socially responsible and opting for a recycling program in UAE, you can make a huge difference to your lifestyle and even influence others.
5. Raise Your Voice
While changing your habits is the most important step in leading a more sustainable lifestyle, you need to spread the word to your peers to make a bigger difference. We have seen major industry giants switch to more eco-friendly practices following a public backlash. Therefore, you can do the same by getting your coworkers, friends, and family to raise their voices against polluters.
Plastic pollution is becoming a bigger problem every year as we produce more and more products using this petroleum derivative. However, we’ve seen a major shift in consumer sentiment since COVID-19, with people becoming more eco-conscious and changing their habits.
Due to these trends, recycling is rapidly becoming one of the fastest-growing industries in the Middle East and around the world. RECAPP is UAE’s first free waste recycling service. Using this powerful app, users can ensure safe plastic disposal from their homes and offices and get rewarded for their efforts.