Plastic is an amazing product. It's lightweight, durable and great for creating food and beverage containers. The problem is that irresponsible use and disposal of plastic can wreak havoc with the environment. The same features that make it appealing, like its durability and flexibility, make plastic wastes difficult to dispose of responsibly. Before you purchase plastic products that are likely to be discarded into the landfill (or make their way into the ocean) consider these facts about how plastic waste affects humans, animals and the environment.
Plastic Waste Threatens Marine Life
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex made up almost entirely of plastic, now floats off the coast of California and takes up a space nearly twice the size of the United States. This floating pile grows larger every year. Experts estimate that by the year 2050, the weight of these waste plastics will be greater than the weight of all the fish in the ocean. When marine animals, like whales, seals, sea turtles and seabirds consume the plastic, they can die from choking, intestinal blockages and starvation. It is estimated that 1 million birds and 100,000 marine animals die each year after consuming plastic pollution in the ocean.
Plastic Wastes Threaten Human Health
Plastics biodegrade slowly over a number of years. As they break down, they release chemicals into the soil and water. These chemicals can leach into the ground water system posing health risks to humans. Some of the chemicals may alter human hormones or cause other illnesses in humans. In addition, the current plastics industry contributes to a dependence on petroleum products and adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
A Global Problem
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, 95 percent of all plastic packaging is discarded after a single use. Of that 95 percent, one-third is tossed in the garbage and never makes it to a recycling center. Waste plastic disposed of in the garbage clogs landfills and may end up in the ocean. Plastic can take anywhere from 15 to 1,000 years to fully degrade. That means the plastic tossed in landfills or littering the ocean will continue to increase unless steps are taken to change the plastic industry.
How Can We Help?
Currently, recycling efforts are piecemeal with no overriding rule or regulations governing the process. While some communities provide curbside pickup or a designated drop off for plastic waste, others do not. To effectively reduce plastic waste, a system needs to be put in place to allow all Americans access to recycling facilities and clear guidelines for recycling plastic products.
You can start making a difference by getting your business involved in a recycling program. Call us today for a free consultation, and visit our blog for more tips on how to incorporate recycling into your daily life.