The Problems of Plastic

Brandon Siragusa, Writter

Plastic pollution has been a huge problem for our world for many generations. Plastic pollution was first noticed in the ocean by scientists carrying out plankton studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and oceans and beaches still receive most of the attention of those studying and working to abate plastic pollution.

Most of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources: by weight, 70% to 80% is plastic that is transported from land to the sea via rivers or coastlines. The other 20% to 30% comes from marine sources such as fishing nets, lines, ropes, and abandoned vessels. The ocean has also become heavily polluted by plastic, the largest amount being close to 2 trillion pieces in the North Pacific Ocean. Much of that is part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a collection of debris with an area of about 1.6 million square kilometers spanning the west coast of the U.S. to Japan. 

The production of plastic uses fossil fuels which produce harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or other surrounding water sources, and also the ecosystem. Over 269,000 tons of plastic pollutes the ocean causing ocean life to get stuck and consume the harmful plastic and kill them.

The pollution of plastic affects humans, just like marine life. Scientists have found high levels of microplastics in shellfish, which humans often consume. There is also evidence to suggest that microplastics can spread through the air, according to the World Economic Forum. Many rich nations ship their waste to poorer countries in Asia and Africa, leading to some areas being flooded by trash.

Apart from the tragedies of plastic pollution, there are people who are helping our environment by picking up trash on the beach and boats with large nets on the back collecting tons of plastic and trash. There are ways you can help with this problem by reusing your plastic utensils and plates and recycling your trash, making it into other helpful objects in your household.