Background Memo

Plastic Pollution

Katy Rivera

16 Simple Yet Effective Initiatives That Are Helping Us Fight Plastic  Pollution

An important issue and global crisis in the environment is, plastic pollution. Pollution over the years has become a controversial topic especially with the amount of plastic being found in oceans and by animals ingesting it. In 1862, plastic was first introduced by Alexander Parkes. Plastic was then showcased in exhibitions and followed by countries worldwide using plastic products such as bags, straw and bottles. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was then discovered, following an understanding that there was a problem no one knew about. “Charles Moore discovers the Great pacific garbage patch the world’s largest collection of floating garbage, when sailing home to Los Angeles” (Charles Moors, 2020). The polymeric material has been found in niches such as Mount Everest and the depths of oceans. “Dropped on the ground, thrown out of a car window, heaped onto an already full rubbish bin, or inadvertently carried off by a gust of wind, they immediately begin to pollute the environment. Indeed, landscapes littered by plastic packaging have become common in many parts of the world” (Charles Moore, 2020).  

Plastic pollution was being discovered mostly in oceans by fishers who would come across waste floating in the ocean or through species who had mistaken the material for food. “Much smaller microplastics – often the product of larger items breaking down – have been found in fish, seafloor sediments and even in Antarctic ice” (Victoria Gill, 2019). The question at first for scientists was whether the tiny fragments of plastic ingested were causing any harm to the species and ecosystem. A BBC documentary showcased findings and one of them being a bird full of plastic that had died due to starvation. Wildlife is being affected tremendously, birds, land animals, turtles and marine mammals are declining every year because they’re consuming plastic material or become entrapped with the material. “Endangered wildlife like Hawaiian monk seals and turtles are among nearly 700 species that eat and get caught in plastic litter”(Center for Biological Diversity, n.d.). 

Out of most materials, plastic has the lowest recovery rate, making it harder to recycle and reuse compared to aluminum and paper. Plastic has such an extensive long life that the material never goes away. what does happen is that it breaks down into microplastics that smaller animals then consume. Many individuals are not aware that the food they consume can have traces of plastic which can have grave consequences on their health and well-being. Those who live on islands or who depend on any kind of seafood, have a higher chance of being affected. Global Urbanization is making it a lot harder to combat this crisis because as populations grow so does the use of plastic and amount of it being improperly disposed of. “Not everyone is intimately familiar with the plastic resin codes or what they mean, nor do the codes themselves give a very detailed look at the plastics. You can find those numbers on any plastic product you own, but unless you already know the details of each material, you won’t know which ones are recyclable”  (4ocean Team, 2020). Early developers intended for this material to be a cheap and effective way but has in fact done the opposite for us. Organizations are collecting billions to solve the problem and the waste is only hurting the earth as a whole. 

References

A Brief History of the Plastic Crisis. (n.d.). 4ocean. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.4ocean.com/blogs/blog/a-brief-history-of-the-plastic-crisis

Early ocean plastic litter traced to 1960s. (2019, April 16). BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47914580

Ocean Plastics Pollution. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/

Plastic pollution | Sources & Effects. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved October 22, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/science/plastic-pollution

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