Plastics in the environment

Nyma E., journalist

We depend on plastics almost every day. What many people don’t know (or don’t like to think about), is plastic is extremely harmful to the environment. Plastics are toxic to the Earth; they harm organisms, entire ecosystems, and can even harm humans.  If we don’t take action now, who knows what the Earth will be like for future generations.

Plastics are largely responsible for destroying entire ecosystems; especially marine environments. Plastics have been found in the stomachs of sea birds and sea turtles. Things like plastic bags can even choke whales. When plastic gets trapped in the digestive system of marine life, not only does it wreak havoc on their bodily functions, but it is not biodegradable. This means the plastic will just break down into even smaller pieces, which will make it easier for other, smaller, animals to eat said plastic. This is especially dangerous when zooplankton eat microplastics, as it disrupts the entire food chain.

One of the most well-known garbage patches is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is a huge vortex of floating trash, much of it microplastics. However, not all of the trash is floating. Around 70% of the marine debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor. Plastics make up the majority of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is around double the size of Texas.

Animals are not the only ones affected by plastics, humans are too. One could compare plastics to sponges; they absorb the substances from the setting around them. This is especially dangerous for animals that eat plastics, but it is also extremely dangerous for humans that eat these marine animals. The chemicals from the plastics and the other chemicals absorbed by the plastic are absorbed into the bloodstream of the animal that ate it. This is extremely dangerous for humans and can be toxic. Plastics are linked to many health defects including, but not limited to, cancer, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues.

The only way to slow down plastic pollution is to stop it at the source. Plastics, especially microplastics, are almost impossible to recover when they are in the ocean. This shows why it is vital to cut down on plastic use now. Progress is being made, but in order for our planet to be able to survive in the long run, progress needs to be made faster. If you have the option, you should switch to reusable plastics instead of single-use plastics. It would greatly impact the environment if everyone who could switch, did.

Plastics are convenient,  in fact, they have revolutionized the world. However, there is a very negative environmental impact when using non-biodegradable plastics. Many of us use plastics for only a very short period of time, but they last for hundreds and hundreds of years. Plastics are toxic to organisms, ecosystems, and humans.

Works Cited

GrrlScientist. “Five Ways That Plastics Harm The Environment (And One Way They May Help).” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Apr. 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/04/23/five-ways-that-plastics-harm-the-environment-and-one-way-they-may-help/#1028c77467a0.

Parker, Laura. “The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained.” National Geographic, 7 June 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/.

Andrews, Gianna. “Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health.” Teach the Earth, 25 Oct. 2019, serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html.

National Geographic Society. “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012, www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/.

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