Why is plastic bad for the environment?

Floating Plastic Debris

Let’s be honest. Plastic has transformed lives in ways you could never imagine. Life has generally been made easier and safer through plastic products. Think of that comfortable plastic chair, or that unbreakable motorcycle helmet. Look at your kitchen and count the number of items.

Even so, what was meant to be of help to humans has turned out out to be the monster in the room. What if the plastic manufacturing technology had never been discovered? Guess what! Life would be healthier and safer. Don’t discredit this claim before reading the following reasons why plastic is bad for the environment.

1. Plastic is an unsustainable material

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, sustainable materials are those produced using resources that cannot get depleted or permanently damaged. 

Now, the raw materials for plastic manufacturing include coal, crude oil and natural gases. You well know that very soon these will be depleted. That essentially makes plastic very bad for the environment.

2. Plastic production releases hazardous substances

Benzene and vinyl hydrochloride are just two of the many poisonous substances released during the production of plastics. These chemicals are linked to various types of cancer in man. 

Another notorious pollutant from plastic manufacture is phthalates. You will be shocked to learn that this chemical toxin is not chemically bound to plastic – meaning it can readily evaporate into the air. It is known to make men and women infertile, damage the endocrine glands, and cause birth defects.  

3. Plastic is non-biodegradable

Plastic pollution wouldn’t be that rampant if plastic was able to naturally rot through the action of decomposing bacteria and fungi. That never happens. Instead, plastic remains largely unaltered once it drops onto the soil or into water. Not for 1 year, not for 10 years – but for nearly 500 years.

This implies that plastic waste is simply being heaped on top of older plastic waste, with no hopes of the heaps reducing in size. With the current rate of dumping,  a large percentage of surface water sources and agricultural land will be completely covered in plastic waste.

4. Plastic leaches toxins

Plastic manufacturers add some chemical substances in plastic to enhance their physical properties and make them more durable. Some of these chemical additives include plasticizers, flame retardants, acid scavengers, color pigments, antioxidants, lubricants, light and heat stabilizers, slip compounds, thermal stabilizers, foaming agents, curing agents, biocides, fillers, reinforcements, and antistatic agents.   

When plastic is broken into smaller pieces by environmental forces, these highly toxic substances leach into the air, soil and water. The toxins finally enter the food chain, accumulate in the bodies of animals and humans, make them suffer from serious illnesses, and finally kill them.

5. Plastic kills wildlife by the millions every year

This is not just another ambiguous estimation. Experts estimate that every year, 1 million seabirds dye as a result of plastic pollution. And that figure does not include other marine animals like turtles, fish, whales, sharks, dolphins etc. Nor has it touched land animals and birds. 

You see, animals think that plastic debris is food. Sometimes, their food is intertwined in the plastic debris in such disguise that they cannot differentiate between the two. Thus they swallow plastic debris. Other marine animals like fish eat microplastics.

The victims die as a result of entanglement of the plastic debris in the gut. It gets to a time they can no longer eat more food nor pass out stool. Also, the chemical toxins in plastics get released in the stomachs of these animals. What do you expect? Death!

6. Burning plastic releases toxic fumes into the environment

You probably thought that burning plastic may be the right solution to reducing plastic pollution. Don’t be mistaken. When plastic burns, toxic gases like mercury, furans, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls are released into the environment.

These harm humans, animals and crops. 

7. Plastics are chief culprit of global warming

From the production process to the disposal point, plastics release quite a humongous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And remember it is not only burning plastic that releases carbon dioxide. Plastic that is decomposing slowly in landfills and garbage heaps also release significant amounts of CO2 into the air. 

The result is global warming, which leads to unpredictable weather patterns, terrific storms, prolonged droughts, flash floods, heat waves, higher wildlife extinction rates, more acidic oceans, rising sea levels, dirtier air, higher death rates, ice melt, and glacial retreat.

To wrap it up,

Plastic is very bad for the environment – from the manufacturing point to the disposal point. And that is why governments across the globe are banning the use of several plastic products. Don’t actively take part in the destruction of our planet. Say no to plastics.