The Damage Caused by Plastic

The Damage Caused by Plastic

Plastic started out life as a convenient alternative to glass so things would not break, and gradually branched out into all areas of our lives, including plastic food packaging and plastic grocery bags.

Plastics have become a major pollutant of land and sea because it is so commonly and so carelessly disposed of, and because it has a long life before it breaks down against water, air and sunshine. Because it is so non-biodegradable, it has become a significant hazard to wildlife.

A recent report about a vast flotilla of discarded plastic making its way to the shore of California and the number of marine animal deaths has finally got people to sit up and take notice. This has in turn led to manufacturers and supermarkets to look at their packaging policies.

Durable shopping bags are available for free or very cheaply, and one brand of yogurt has even started to package its product in small glass tubs. In Europe, supermarkets are banning plastic from their products and encouraging people to bring along refillable containers so they can buy bulk foods from storage bins each week.

While it is true that many plastics can be recycled, many cannot, and even the recyclable ones do not always end up where they need to go. In developing nations, there is a lot less access to these kinds of programs. In developed countries, it depends on location and how willing people are to take the trouble to get their items recycled.

The Effect of Plastic on People

In terms of humans, the effect of plastic is alarming – if not outright dangerous. Plastic has been associated with endocrine imbalances such as diabetes and thyroid issues. It also plays havoc with the sex hormones. Some studies even suggest that plastic can significantly lower men’s sperm count, leading to sterility.

When buying plastic, avoid ones with BPA in them for these reasons. Don’t drink out of plastic water bottles; use a water filter and a stainless steel water bottle instead.

Certain plastics, such as those made outside the US, are believed to include cancer-causing agents.

Killing Sea Animals

Many sea animals get tangled up in plastic and die. Some even eat the plastic, and die of complications when it gets twisted in their digestive tracts. The plastic holder for soda or beer cans can get wrapped around, for example, a turtle, and over time lead to deformity and death.

Experts have found that whale mothers nursing their young have a high infant mortality rate due to their milk being poisoned by the chemicals in plastics. Plastic is also making ocean water more acidic, leading to “dead zones” where no life can be sustained.

The number of dead whales being washed up on beaches all over the world is growing. Studies now suggest that baleen whales are literally starving to death, partly because there isn’t enough krill for them to eat, but also because their filtration system is not able to deal with plastic and their stomachs are literally filling with plastic trash. Many sharks have also been found with vast amounts of plastic in their bellies.

While plastic pollution is indeed a crisis of planetary proportions, we do all have a choice about what we buy, whether or not we recycle, and what charities we support. Learn more about plastic pollution and take action to reverse this deadly trend.

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