PLASTIC DOES IT

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Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 focus on conserving and protecting under water and land ecosystems.  World Environment Day, 5th of June every year drives this action for the protection of our environment, raising awareness on everyday environmental issues from marine pollution to global warming to sustainable consumption and to wildlife.

For many years now, global consumption of plastics have unimaginably increased, more often than not, from land-based sources and as plastic is composed of major toxic pollutants, it has the potential to cause great harm to the environment in the form of air, water and land pollution; with “Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, the world, gradually, is rising to the occasion of combating plastic pollution and exploring sustainable alternatives.

WHAT IS PLASTIC?

Plastic is material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or natural organic materials that are soft and so can be molded into solid objects, which includes resins, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives, casein materials used in place of other materials, as glass, wood, and metals. Sometimes, plastics do not easily breakdown into simple components.

Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic products in the environment that adversely afflict wildlife, wildlife habitat or humans.

Although they decompose over a period of time, an average of 100 to 500 years. They however, with their immense pollution kill our planet, choking our oceans and poisoning food and water. Plastic is listed as the number one threat to marine ecosystem.

All over the world, the statistics are ever growing. Tons of plastic debris has been established at a 78% waste, many of the harmful chemicals posing serious health risks to man, land and marines. While plastic constitutes about 85% of all debris floating on the ocean’s surface, ecologists and oceanographers speculates there may be underwater trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Its effects on soil fertility and ultimately food supply, an immense woe.

Since the 1950s, an estimated 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and another 12% of plastic waste has been incinerated. Scientists estimate that several plastics are thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. Plastic accounts for around 10% of the total waste generated. Annually, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide while more than one million bags are used every minute. It is sad to know that about 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in oceans.

One million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world and that number will top half a trillion by 2021, some other statistic reveals.

Mind boggling?

In 2016, a global population of more than seven billion produced over 300 million tonnes of plastic, signifying that even as the human population increases so does the quantity of solid wastes generation. The ultimate sad facts are swirled by currents, the litters accumulating over time at the center of ocean, poisoning oceans and land, injuring marine life, and affecting human health.

With these mind-blowing facts comes WASTE RECYCLING. Waste recycling is not new, particularly in the developed world. But in the developing countries like Nigeria where it is common place to see flooded cities during rainy season due to blocked drainages, gutters and canals arising from the mountains of refuse that litter every part of the country, emphasis must be thus be stressed on plastic products recycling. Plastic recycling includes melting down plastic water, soft drink bottles and then casting them as plastic chairs and tables. Recycling of waste plastics is the process of recovering scrap or waste plastic and reprocessing the material into useful products, sometimes completely different in form from their original state.

THE DAMAGE

Some of the major long-term effects of plastic pollution are; land pollution, air pollution and amongst the most seriously affected are the coastal communities which ultimately calls for increased expenditures for beach cleaning, public health, waste disposal, litter removal and waste management.

Beyond these woes, it’s time to rethink how we use plastics, for by 2050 there could be more plastic in the world’s waters than fishes. Researchers have identified 400 species of animals whose members either ingested plastics or got entangled in it. Year in year out, the plastics that are constantly thrown into the ocean are responsible for killing one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals. Did you know that every year, up to 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans?

Given the character of this major issue, proactive measures need to be taken to give lasting solution to plastic pollution such that our planets become forever protected. No need for plastic discs anymore, the internet has so become more than friendly. Mugs should come in handy anywhere and everywhere. Stakeholders should encourage the reuse and recycling of waste, especially plastic bags, bottles and containers. It’s time for us to do the rethink, let’s have a redesign, let’s improve our waste collection by sorting and reprocessing. The need is urgent, and we must continue to develop and use multiple strategies to have a waste-free environment.

Our planet is beautiful! Let’s save it!!

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Olaife Ilori
Article by Olaife Ilori

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