The Essential Essay on Plastic Pollution
The world manufactures over 380 million tonnes of plastic each year, over 90 percent of which is never recycled. Instead, the bulk of these plastic products sooner or later end up in our natural environments, including the oceans, land and even the air we breathe. This essay on plastic pollution seeks to explain the impact, causes and possible solutions to the problem of plastic pollution.
Types of Plastic Pollution
There are various ways in which plastic impacts our world. This pollution essay will first look at seaborne pollution, before overview land and air contamination.
Sea Plastic Pollution
The amount of plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways is set to double by 2030, While plastic leads to water pollution of all kinds, including rivers, lakes and even glaciers, it’s ocean plastic pollution that has garnered the most public attention, according to Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“The speed at which ocean plastic pollution is capturing public attention is encouraging. It is vital that we use this momentum to focus on the opportunities for a clean, healthy and resilient ocean,” she has noted.
However, despite growing public awareness of plastic waste and its impact on the seas, experts like Anderson have warned the problem is only getting worse.
According to a 2021 UNEP assessment, by 2050 plastic pollution in the oceans alone will account for 6.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. Comparatively, in 2015 that figure was just 1.7 gigatons, according to the same essay about ocean pollution.
Along with representing a more than doubling of plastic material in the oceans, this increase will also account for 15 percent of the entire global carbon budget, as set under the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.
Already, plastics account for over 80 percent of all anthropogenic debris found in the ocean. The other 20 percent is beyond the scope of this short essay on plastic pollution.
Combined though, this includes debris found at all levels of the ocean: from the surface to deep sea sediments. In fact, a disposable plastic grocery bag holds the dubious title of deepest oceanic waste ever recovered.
In 2019, a study using information from the Deep-Sea Debris Database identified the bag at a depth of 10,975 meters (36,000 feet), in the Mariana Trench.
The trench is the deepest known crevasse in the ocean, and was once considered a possible example of one of the few isolated corners of the ocean untouched by human activity.
When diver Victor Vescovo broke the world record with an 11 kilometre descent into the trench, he became just the third person in history to reach the deepest corner of the region, the Challenger Deep.
There, on social media he reported finding candy wrappers and at least one plastic bag. More plastic waste was also reported by the previous record holder, film director James Cameron, during a dive conducted amid filming for Titanic.
Plastic pollution in the ocean present a dire risk to marine life, by both disrupting the natural food cycle and contaminating ecosystems with persistent, hard to eliminate plastic products.
Sea birds, whales, fish, turtles and other marine animals can mistake plastic debris for food, leading to choking or entanglement. According to the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 100,000 marine animals die each year due to plastic ingestion or entanglement.
Victims range from common seagulls to rare species such as the humpback dolphin, which have been observed tangled in disposed fishing gear. Nets, lines and other fishing gear represent more than half of all plastic waste in the ocean.
By intention or accident, roughly 640,000 tons of plastic fishing equipment is dumped in the oceans every year, and is left to drift freely. This kind of plastic litter is the most common culprit for entanglements, which can cause lacerations, suffocation and a slow death for animals.
During just a single expedition in the waters off Australia’s Northern Territory, the WWF found derelict nets containing the bodies of three possible dolphins, nine sharks, two turtles and numerous other exotic fish.
Australia alone dumps 130,000 tons of plastic into its surrounding oceans each year. However, as this plastic and environment essay seeks to demonstrate, marine life isn’t alone in being impacted by our addiction to plastic goods.
While the fishing industry is the seas’ biggest polluter, the other main source of oceanic plastic is from human being and our activity on land.
This broadly includes waste from cities and industry, including urban waste disposal, construction waste, storm water and sewage runoff, used plastics and illegal dumping.
Land pollution itself could be an even more severe problem than oceanic debris.
Around 79 percent of all plastic produced in the last century has ended up in either landfill or seeped into natural environment, according a paper from the UK’s Proceedings of the Royal Society.
The paper reported findings that plastic contamination of soil was associated with up to a 60 percent decrease in the expected prevalence of soil-borne animals, such as ants and insect larvae.
Much of this plastic came in the form of microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles from products like disposable cups and plastic bags.
“The effects of microplastics strongly cascade through the soil food webs, leading to the modification of microbial functioning with further potential consequences on soil carbon and nutrient cycling,” the paper noted.
Along with affecting the oceans and land, plastic can also affect air quality. Around 40 percent of all garbage in the world is incinerated. When plastics are involved, this practice can lead to the release of so-called persistent organic pollutants (POP), along with heavy metals and other chemicals.
Among the most disconcerting of such chemicals are Phthalates, which are added to plastics to make them more flexible. These chemicals can easily leek out of plastics and become airborne, and are associated with decreased fertility in both men and women.
As essay writing on this topic shows, while plastics provide an important service to human beings, irrelevant of class, the impact on the environment is compounding year by year.
As this plastic pollution essay has shown, the causes of plastic pollution are as varied as the ways in which plastic can devastate the environment.
Likewise, determining how to stop plastic pollution will require a variety of approaches.
On an individual level, using plastic less, from water bottles to plastic bags, is just one of many needed solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean.
However, individual human beings can’t solve the problem alone: most experts agree collective action is needed, including through nation-level compliance with international agreements like the Paris Accord.
As this essay for environmental pollution demonstrates, plastic is a global problem, requires a global solution.
Here at Seachain we’re tackling the problem while global citizens like yourself decide what you’re going to do to help us out- we know you want this plastic pollution problem to disappear!