Findings Memo

Katy Rivera

Why isn't anything being done? | Microplastics in Freshwater Systems

There have been studies and intensive research on what plastic can do and other findings related to the material. The Trade commission PlasticEurope estimated that plastic production grew from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 396 tons by 2018. They also stated the following, “Between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes (5.3 million and 14 million tons) are discarded into the oceans annually by countries with ocean coastlines” (Charles Moore, 2020). In 2 years, we can assume that those numbers have increased in production and the amount being discarded into the land and ocean. The number one sector to use plastic is packing and followed by building and construction. In terms of use, packaging has a lifetime of 6 months while building and construction has plastic use of 35 years. Charts for the 2015 sector conclude the following, “Packaging is therefore the dominant generator of plastic waste, responsible for almost half of the global total” (Ritchie & Roser, 2018).  

The majority of the plastic produced, is used once and then thrown out. The “Our World in Data” charts confirm that Guyana, Kuwait, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland and the United States are the primary countries who contribute the most plastic waste. These countries contribute plastic waste 10 times more than India, Bangladesh and Tanzania. China is the largest producer of plastic followed by The United States who produces 38 million to be exact. National Geographic says, “Plastic recycling rates are highest in Europe at 30 percent. China’s rate is 25 percent. The United States recycles just 9 percent of its plastic trash” (Laura Parker, n.d.). 

The first oceanography study took a closer look at how much plastic debris there was on the surface of the ocean and the study concluded that there was approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles floating around that weighed 269,000 tons. (Charles Moore, 2020). 80 percent of ocean plastic come from land sources and 20 percent from marine sources. The 20 percent is contributed by fishing nets and abandoned vessels, “This is supported by figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which suggests abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear contributes approximately 10 percent to total ocean plastics” (Ritchie &. Roser, 2018). The parts of world that has the highest quantity of pollution is the Northern Hemisphere this is attributed to the majority of the population being present in the Northern Hemisphere. 

A study was performed to look at the public and environmental health effects of plastic waste disposal. 10 percent of household plastics end up being dumped into landfills which have harmful effects on ecosystems and environment. When there is land pollution, the abiotic and biotic degrades from plastic waste. Those toxins then lead to soil and water contamination. “plastics are capable of leaching out toxic chemicals into the soil and subsequently seep into the underground water or surrounding aquatic system thereby polluting the ecosystem” (Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, 2019). The reports explained how 260 species ingest any kind of plastic which then leads to death. “More than 400,000 deaths of marine mammals, marine pollution by plastic wastes majorly affects sea turtles and other species whose main food are jelly fishes because they often confuse discarded plastic bags for jelly fish” (Ritchie & Roser, 2018). Many of these species are becoming endangered due to plastic waste looking like their daily diet. Turtles have become a popular animal because they are eating large amounts of plastic or straws getting stuck in their noses and then dying. For this study, researchers concluded “Reducing community’s exposure to toxicants from plastic wastes will increase the chances of having a clean environment and healthy society. There is an urgent need for government agencies and health authorities to enact and enforce environmental laws that will monitor production, usage and disposal of plastics” (Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, 2019). Passing laws would likely help decrease the production and create laws to protect the environment/ species affected by it. 

References

Fast facts about plastic pollution. (2018, December 20). National Geographic News. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/05/plastics-facts-infographics-ocean-pollution/

Okunola A, A., Kehinde I, O., Oluwaseun, A., & Olufiropo E, A. (2019). Public and Environmental Health Effects of Plastic Wastes Disposal: A Review. Journal of Toxicology and Risk Assessment, 5(2). https://doi.org/10.23937/2572-4061.1510021

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

Ritchie, H., & Roser, M. (2018). Plastic Pollution. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution

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