Plastic could be our doom; unless we act now
Updated: Jun 25, 2019
When humans figured out how to turn crude oil into plastic the world was over.
Why do I say so? It made so many things became available to us, at low cost, with the added advantage of being light weight and malleable; it changed our lives for the better. Think of what computers would be made of if plastic wasn’t around? It’s scary to think that maybe we wouldn’t even have them if it wasn’t for the mass producibility of plastic. Almost everything today has some plastic component, electronics (phones), construction material (PVC), clothing, furniture, cars...
As good as a thing can be, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and plastic is no exception. Companies decided to turn plastics into single use materials, like cups, grocery bags, and product packaging. The result is a wave of plastic waste that has permeated our environment.
Plastic has been around for about 100 years now. It’s made up of long polymer chains which are rearranged by breaking down the components of crude oil. It is a strong material that can take between 400 and 1,000 years to break down. This means that plastic created in 2019, will still be around until 2419, just like day one. Now think back to all the plastic ever made in world history; that is 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. Some (7%) has been recycled, and some (12%) burnt, the rest finds its way into landfills and the ocean where constant exposure to the sun breaks it down into micro-plastics.
In the ocean, plastic nets trap marine life, plastic straws find their way up turtles noses and plastic bottle caps get confused for food. In 2015 it was estimated that 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic. And in this way plastic proverbially climbs up the food chain until it reaches people.
So, plastic has become a nightmare but the answer is not to demonize all plastic; we must simply stop using it to make single use products. One easy way that an individual can help is by making a few small switches every week. Choose the mustard in the glass jar versus the plastic, the bamboo toothbrush, or the unwrapped produce over the one with the fancy plastic packaging. Bring your own reusable bags to the store, refuse the straw that comes with your drink, and support companies that share your eco-friendly values.