Throughout the years, plastic pollution on the planet has been one of the most burning issues. Lakes, rivers, and oceans are currently at the risk of being over contaminated, which increases year after year. This problem is much more serious than expected. Plastic pollution literary means a dangerous impact on human’s health, marine life, and the conditions on the existing ecosystems of the planet as a whole.
The biggest problem of such pollution lies not in the drinks bottles or plastic cups thrown away, but in the plastic microbeads, or microplastic. They are the tiny pieces hardly seen by the naked eye that are produced by the plastic itself being in its structure. When getting to the global oceans, the plastic particles can be spread all over the globe with the currents of the wind. Such particles may be different in various cases but usually they consist of polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), nylon, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). They have been used by the companies that produce cosmetics, hygiene products such as soaps, toothpastes, body washes, etc. Billions of people use them every single day several times per twenty-four hours, which causes great damage to the water on Earth and gets back to humans through seafood like fish as well as oysters, or even sea salt. For example, the fish that people harvest and use in the dishes like sushi. It happens because fish absorbs the micro-plastic particles in a significant number that gets deep into their tissues. As a result, humans absorb microplastic they waste themselves back while eating fish.
Plastic also causes death to most marine habitants like turtles, dolphins, whales simply because they confuse plastic with food. Turtles do not feel the difference between jellyfish and a plastic bag, so after absorption animals feel blockades inside and their organisms cannot recycle them. It breaks the digestive system, which is fatal also for the sea birds.
With the longevity of plastics in oceans for over hundreds or even thousands of years, its number increases day by day while it is washed up along coastlines, in the process of industrial activity, or during storms.
The recent studies conducted by the team of analysts from the UK revealed that within just the last year the level of pollution reached the crisis point in the river Tame, near Manchester. Currently this is the highest level of contamination the region ever seen. It was caused by the winter floods that happened back in 2015-2016. As a result, the concentration of the microplastic participles surpassed the data of the previous results. This means that oceans’ level of pollution has also significantly increased and keeps on getting higher by the minute.
In 2015, Barack Obama banned the use of microfibers in the personal care products in the USA by signing the Microbeads Free Waters Act. This gave other countries a boost to ban microbeads too. In January 2018, such microbeads were forbidden also in the UK. According to the environment minister in the UK, Thérèse Coffey, ban of microbeads was one of the most effective ways to try to save the world’s oceans anyway people can. The same thought is supported by Mary Creagh MP, EAC chair, adding that producers of the coffee-cups must be responsible for their own products and this idea must be supported by government.
Nowadays many countries including poor ones or from the developed world, try to solve the global problem of pollution by separation of plastic waste and recycling, or using alternatives for plastic products whenever possible. In Europe, for instance, in 2014 the amount of plastic waste surpassed the percent that was recycled – only 30% of over 25 million tones of plastic waste. This means that the rest of plastic and its particles were thrown into environment.
However, there are other ways that can solve the problem of pollution like awareness of the society. The Grantham Institute at Imperial College London offered in their report in 2016 that there’s a necessity to consider plastic as a valuable source of the new material as a result of recycling. This may increase the economic value of plastic waste.
Further conditions of the plastic pollution depend on the countries that society lives in and attention of the government to this big problem. For over 60-70 years that plastic exists, the contamination of the planet has increased to the large numbers and we will need a lot of time and effort to save nature and decrease the impact of plastic on ecosystems and us, humans. Currently it seems impossible because with every passing moment another portion of plastic is utilized and only a little part of it is recycled. However, there is a hope for solving this problem while humans become more conscious and over time the problem might get smaller scale.