The problem of plastic pollution has a range of negative effects on animals, humans, and the environment that sustains life on Earth but it is often overlooked as one of the biggest problems on Earth. People that do care might do what they can to lower their carbon footprint or impact on the environment but are powerless to implement the immediate needed change. Natural fiber cloth, silicone, and glass are just a few of many plastic alternatives. The effects of how the Earth is treated currently would be detrimental to many species of creatures and human health. Plastic pollution can change habitats and the environment’s natural processes directly impacting how the environment can adapt to climate change. The systems for managing wastes need to be changed as well as decreasing or eliminating the manufacturing of single use items. One incredibly important factor to how much waste goes into the environment is people’s individual decisions so education and change on what is better for the environment would be beneficial. The logical thing to do when there is a threat is to eliminate the threat as much as possible. Plastic is that threat that should be eliminated because manufacturing such quantities is unsustainable and harmful to the environment.
The increasing manufacturing rates of plastic and single use plastics combined with the long time it takes to degrade harms wildlife and releases greenhouse gasses such as methane and ethylene that heat up the environment more increasing the rate of climate change.
To know how much plastics are added to the natural environment and the world’s oceans, we must understand many elements of the plastic production, distribution and waste management chain so pollution can be reduced. How waste is managed and what is being produced directly impacts what ends up in the environment. Our World in Data (whose purpose is to advance education in how global living conditions and the earth’s environment are changing, through the production and maintenance of public online resources.) posted the article, “Plastic Pollution” in 2018 and was updated in 2020. “Plastics in the oceans’ surface waters is several orders of magnitude lower than annual ocean plastic inputs. This difference is known as the ‘missing plastic problem.’” There is missing plastic that could be the plastic breaking down to smaller particles, microplastics, and being implemented anywhere it can get or by incorrect data or buried plastic on coastlines. There are massive amounts of unmanaged “plastic that is either littered or inadequately disposed” that goes into our oceans decreasing the health of the environment and marine life and this lead to seeing fewer floating plastics. That way plastic is ‘missing’. It mentions predictions of if we stopped or continued getting plastic into our oceans by 2020.
This ocean waste includes gear from fishing lift behind such as nets and lines. “At the global level, best estimates suggest that approximately 80 percent of ocean plastics come from land-based sources, and the remaining 20 percent from marine sources.6 of the 20 percent from marine sources, it’s estimated that around half (10 percentage points) arises from fishing fleets (such as nets, lines and abandoned vessels). This is supported by figures from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)”. The, “estimates of the contribution of marine sources to the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (GPGP) is that abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear make up 75% of 86% of floating plastic mass (greater than 5 centimeters).15 This research suggests that most of this fishing activity originates from five countries – Japan, South Korea, China, the United States and Taiwan.” With how much has already been dumped into the environment, even if plastic stopped being produced it takes so long to degrade that Earth would still be impacted by its effects for decades to come just like from the article “offshore we find large plastic objects dating as far back as the 1950s and 1960s” They include a link to a table showing the impact on plastics directly on animals which directly related to how plastic impacts animal life. The full extent of impacts on ecosystems and human health are not yet known but entanglement, ingestion, interaction, ecosystem structure problems, and humans drinking microplastics are just some of the ways life is impacted. The impacts vary by location and geography, “plastic pollution is dominant where the local waste management practices are poor. This means there is a large amount of mismanaged plastic waste that can enter rivers and the ocean in the first place. This makes clear that improving waste management is essential if we’re to tackle plastic pollution.” and, “plastics in the ocean break down slower than previously thought, and that much of the missing plastic is washed up or buried in our shorelines” which makes it difficult to see. The best solution for trash already littered is, “recapturing and removing plastics already in our offshore waters and shorelines” to reduce the amount in our environment.
This article, “Local Impact of Climate Change, Environmental Problems.” by Pew Research Center Science and Society posted in 2022shows more statistics of how opinions are different depending on political party, ethnicity, location, and age. Opinions of people matter because it impacts their decisions and habits which impacts the environment. They wanted to know the impacts of environmental problems which included what people thought about plastic waste. The question of if climate change is thought of as a big problem or not and if people need to be protected from extreme weather events. The information is reliable and will be helpful when showing what people think environmental problems impacts them saying that “a majority of Americans say climate change is having at least some impact on their local community.” The article is relatively new with information and figures from 2021. People’s views vary, “regions that are relatively likely to say climate change is impacting their communities… tend to be places that lean Democratic in their political affiliation. There are also modest differences by generation in beliefs about its local impact.” The article includes what people say they do to protect the environment which will be helpful for my argument that poorer regions are more likely to acknowledge climate change, “lower-income Americans are also more likely to report that their area has big problems with these environmental issues” and “Majorities of U.S. adults say they take some everyday actions in order to help protect the environment, including reducing their food waste (81%), using fewer plastics that cannot be reused such as plastic bags, straws or cups (72%) or reducing the amount of water they use (67%). More than half of Americans (54%) say they drive less or carpool to help the environment, and 40% say they eat less meat.” Even with controversy, this is a problem for all humans, young or old, democratic or republican, believers in climate change or not.
In 2022, World Economic Forum posted an article called, “This Is How Plastic Pollution Causes Climate Change.” Many plastics end up in the ocean from litter or incorrectly disposed of and release greenhouse gasses as well as trash incineration is also a major source of air pollution “Burning plastics releases a cocktail of poisonous chemicals that damage the health of the planet and the people exposed to the polluted air. Black carbon is one such serious pollutant – it has a global warming potential up to 5,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.” Every piece of littered plastic is an opportunity to affect the planet or directly impact creatures, including humans, on Earth. Littering impacts how much trash goes into the ocean. “Much of the plastic that doesn’t make it to the recycling plant ends up in our rivers and ocean. Not only is this a danger to the animals and plants whose habitats have become aquatic garbage patches, but it also poses a threat to the climate, as plastic releases greenhouse gases as it slowly breaks down. Sunlight and heat cause it to release methane and ethylene – and at increasing rate as the plastic breaks down into ever smaller pieces.” These chemicals being produced only continue to accelerate the rate that more is released from breaking down plastic. The writer, Charlotte Edmond, is an employee for Formative Content at the World Economic Forum. This non-profit forum, “strives in all its efforts to demonstrate standards of governance. Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.” providing little bias in articles. This article says “the visible signs of our single-use plastic addiction are everywhere” which is calling the relationship between humans and plastic an addiction. Although there are dramatic points the language is used for a reason to convey the importance plastic use has towards global warming, she includes links that explain further about the topic such as how “The Future of Petrochemicals [which] explores the role of the sector in today’s global energy system and how its significance for global energy security and the environment is set to increase. It also draws a path to an alternative scenario consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, exploring enabling technologies and strategies, and assessing their impact on energy demand.” The sector is working on solutions for non-renewable resources as the demand for non-renewable sources such as plastics continues to grow in demand. It is possible to remove plastic from commercial use, “Plastic that can’t be eliminated from the system needs to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. This requires significant investment in collection and reprocessing infrastructure.” Plastic accounts for a lot of oil consumption “The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) estimates that if trends continue, plastics will account for 20% of oil consumption by 2050.” and she explains that with little recycling much plastic breaks down into smaller pieces and release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses mentioned earlier posing a danger to plants and animals. As of 2021 the top 10 items found most in ocean garbage are plastic bags, plastic bottles, food containers/cutlery, wrappers, synthetic rope, fishing items, plastic lids, industrial packaging, glass bottles, and drink cans. “At least half of Earth’s oxygen comes from the ocean, mostly produced by plankton. These tiny organisms also capture carbon through photosynthesis, making our ocean a vitally important carbon sink. Microplastics affect the ability of these organisms to grow, reproduce and capture carbon. And by grazing on microplastics, these plankton could further accelerate the loss of ocean oxygen.” Since at least half of the oxygen on Earth comes from organisms like plankton that can be harmed by microplastic in the ocean it means the impact of plastic on marine life is a problem that can have a big impact on warming oceans and controlling the escalation of climate change. Burning plastic releases harmful chemicals and adds to air pollution and greenhouse gasses that heat up the atmosphere. From the production, use, and elimination of plastic there is a negative impact on the environment and its inhabitants.
She proposes a circular economy that reuses its products. A circular economy is a “new production and consumption model that ensures sustainable growth over time. With the circular economy, we can drive the optimization of resources, reduce the consumption of raw materials, and recover waste by recycling or giving it a second life as a new product.” and could cut the amount of plastics entering our “oceans by 80% each year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. It could also generate annual savings of $200 billion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% and create 700,000 net additional jobs by 2040.” There has to be a huge change in mindsets and the system “it’s not just about not consuming plastic, but it’s about changing the systems that are in place and making sure that we’re helping the companies, the citizens, the countries in the decisions that they’re making, so that they’re not just doing a small step at the time, but it’s really a holistic change that disrupts our current system.” The systems in place need to be changed to accommodate for sustainable consumption and production.
Laura Parker posted a 2021 article called, “Microplastics Have Moved Into Virtually Every Crevice on Earth.” through Global Environmental Health Newsletter explaining howthe impact of microplastics is extensive and invasive. There is a man-made island landfill made to dump waste on. This is not a good enough way to manage waste. Tourists produce more waste than locals showing that people’s mindset and habits are a problem. Sadly, the island chain, known for the rich marine biodiversity, is also home to the world’s highest levels of microplastics. Most particles are found on the beach and surrounding shallow waters. The size of plastics was the “same size as prey consumed by various marine life on the reef.” They also mentioned that the pollution is bad for “a tropical marine ecosystem that supports more than 1,100 species of fish and 929 other species, ranging from amphipods to whales, as well as 170 species of sea birds. Of 71 trigger fish collected by the researchers, all had plastic in their bellies, on average eight fibers per fish.” which makes microplastics dangerous for marine life. The “less visible and more pervasive plastic bits have spread into virtually every crevice on Earth, from the deepest sea trenches to the highest alpine mountains. Some microplastics are so tiny they are part of the dust that blows around the planet, high in the atmosphere” but the cycle of microplastics and how they travel are still being researched. No harm has been reported when it comes to the dangers of microplastics on humans but there is evidence that there is harm on marine life. Even if plastic stopped flowing into the seas it would be unpredictable how long plastic would continue to break down and accumulate in seas since past predictions were much too low. The ocean-current gyres are the main source for concentrating microplastics in deep ocean trenches and other “hot spots” which are huge amounts of microplastics. China uses plastic in their crops so land is not spared from microplastics. Growing with plastic has already shown to decrease crop yield. Winds carry microplastics even to remote ecosystems. A scientist, Janice Brahney, “found that microplastics traveled at different levels through the atmosphere. Larger particles are deposited in wet weather and most likely come from nearby. Tiny, lightweight fibers travel long, cross-continental distances, becoming part of the global movement of dust, before settling to the ground, usually in dry weather.” how the different particles travel. There is so much unknown, it is hard to know all the impacts of plastics that are everywhere.
The Global Environmental Health Newsletter posted an article in 2021 by Megan Avakian, “New Study Finds Ocean Pollution a Threat to Human Health.” that shows a study on how microplastics effect infants developing brain in pregnant women that ate contaminated sea food and other harmful effects of microplastics and ocean pollution on humans. The worsening global problem needs immediate action. Ocean pollution threatens the benefits oceans provide such as food, livelihoods, and cultural and recreational value to billions around the world. The article clearly conveys that this problem is a matter of great importance “Ocean pollution is a widespread, worsening, and poorly controlled problem that is directly affecting human and ecosystem health,” said lead study author Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Boston College Global Observatory on Pollution and Health. “It is a complex mix of toxins that, until now, has not received the systematic attention it deserves.” The impacts hurt low-income countries or populations that rely on fishing because that is where they get food, “more than 80% of ocean pollution comes from land-based sources, making its way to the seas through runoff, rivers, atmospheric deposition, and direct discharges. It is most highly concentrated along the coasts of low- and middle-income countries.” Different pollutants cause different problems
people are exposed to these toxins mainly by eating contaminated seafood… Coal combustion is the major source of mercury pollution in the oceans… authors noted that when a pregnant woman eats mercury-contaminated fish, the mercury can damage her child’s developing brain resulting in IQ loss and behavior problems. In adults, consumption of mercury-contaminated fish increases risk for heart disease and dementia… microplastics that absorb a range of chemicals floating in the marine environment, including pesticides and toxic metals. humans are most likely to be exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated substances, and pesticides through eating contaminated seafood. These chemicals have been shown to cause a wide range of health effects in humans such as cardiovascular disease, developmental and neurobehavioral disorders, metabolic disease, immune dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and cancers. Harmful algal blooms (HAB) occur when toxin-producing algae grow excessively in ocean waters. Warming sea waters make formerly unsuitable habitats habitable… Industrial waste, agricultural runoff, pesticides, and human sewage can all spur a HAB event. People are exposed to HAB toxins from eating contaminated fish and shellfish. These toxins can cause dementia, amnesia, other neurological damage, and death.
Ocean pollution and climate change are two problems for Earths health that come from the same source of the combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That in turn leads to problems for humans and the environment we live in. All forms of pollution, can be prevented using laws, policies, technology, and enforcement actions that address the pollution sources. Eliminating coal combustion to reduce mercury pollution, a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, banning single-use plastics, like straws and plastic bags, can reduce the amount of plastic pollution entering oceans which can increase tourism, restored fisheries, improved human health, and economic growth proved possible by other countries. “Ocean pollution and climate change are both components of planetary health. The two problems largely arise from the same source: the combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil, and gas that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere” with warming temperatures comes more diseases from melted ice and “expand the range of marine microbes that can cause disease” by having a warmer favorable environment. More carbon dioxide means the oceans will absorb more carbon dioxide and become increasingly acidic which, “can erode coral reefs and calcium containing organisms such as plankton that are the base of the marine food chain. Ocean acidification can also increase the toxicity of certain heavy metals and chemicals.” More research on the impacts of pollution is needed to provide evidence for people to put protective policies in place “among the research priorities, they call for improved ocean pollution monitoring, studies of human exposure to ocean pollutants and health effect biomarkers, and a better understanding of the effects of exposure to multiple ocean pollutants.” which should help build up more information. The article was from 2021 and assessed 2022 so the information is recent and the article is reliable from The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) who’s contributions are to scientific knowledge of human health, the environment, and well-being of all people. This publicly funded organization can reliably be used to make decisions, fight misinformation, and is non bias.
Fagan, Moira, and Sneha Gubbala wrote, “Climate Change Remains Top Global Threat Across 19-Country Survey.” Aug 31st 2022 posted through Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project that argues there is 75% across 19 countries in North America Europe and the Asia Pacific region that label global climate change as a major threat. Political diversity is a big factor in who believes what in multiple countries. In 12 countries, women are more likely than men to say that climate change is major threat to their country “people around the world also express an optimism that the problems facing their country can be solved by working with other countries” (Fagan). What people believe make a big impact on the amount of waste a person produces “in the U.S., 54% of people say climate change is a major threat, which is the lowest such rating among the five threats tested. Political divisions on this question play a role in how Americans assess climate change: 78% of Democrats and those that lean toward the Democratic Party say climate change is a major threat, compared with only 23% of Republicans and Republican leaners.” If someone does not believe climate change is a thing, they are less likely to do things that are more environmentally friendly “in virtually every European country surveyed, concerns about climate change are lower among those who support right-wing populist parties than those who do not support these parties.” The article showed graphs, charts, and statistics for what people believe, then broke it down into political views, “those with more education are more concerned about the threat of climate change than those with less education”, gender, location, or age. The source was helpful in showing the relation between what people believe and that a lot of factors politically and age wise go into what someone believes. Unfortunately, even wealth played a role in if people were worried about climate change. The lack of belief about climate change could play a role in how slow the progress is for environmental changes. Why would people do anything about it if they had no idea how important it is or even wonder if climate change is real. It is real, and until everyone acknowledges it, it will continue to be an ever-growing problem for the human race, Earth, and all living creatures.
The problem of plastic pollution increases along with plastic production rates, poor waste management, and letting trash flow into the oceans harming plankton that produce much of the Earths oxygen. Microplastics get carried through our air, left in soil, and pollutes water along with macroplastics killing marine life and animals. If progress is going to be made there has to be education of the negative effects of plastic and global warming on the environment and how to replace bad environmental habits with good ones. The production processes need to eliminate use of nonrenewable resources that cause more greenhouse gasses and implement better alternatives to the people for a better environment including waste management and collection of litter already in the oceans and soils.
Ritchie, Hannah. “Plastic Pollution.” Our World in Data, 1 Sept. 2018, ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution#summary.
“Local Impact of Climate Change, Environmental Problems.” Pew Research Center Science & Society, 28 Apr. 2022, www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/05/26/local-impact-of-climate-change-environmental-problems.
“This Is How Plastic Pollution Causes Climate Change.” World Economic Forum, 8 Feb. 2022, www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/01/plastic-pollution-climate-change-solution.
Parker, Laura. “Microplastics Have Moved Into Virtually Every Crevice on Earth.” Science, 3 May 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/microplastics-in-virtually-every-crevice-on-earth.
Parker, Laura. “The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained.” Environment, 3 May 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/plastic-pollution.
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Kosuth, Mary, et al. “Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 4, 11 Apr. 2018, p. e0194970. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A534255306/OVIC?u=morekcmetroccpv&sid=bookmark-OVIC&xid=8029c7a8. Accessed 18 Sept. 2022.
Avakian, Megan. “New Study Finds Ocean Pollution a Threat to Human Health.” Global Environmental Health Newsletter, www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/geh_newsletter/2021/2/articles/new_study_finds_ocean_pollution_a_threat_to_human_health.cfm. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022.
Fagan, Moira, and Sneha Gubbala. “Climate Change Remains Top Global Threat Across 19-Country Survey.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, 31 Aug. 2022, www.pewresearch.org/global/2022/08/31/climate-change-remains-top-global-threat-across-19-country-survey.