From food to bags, cars to utensils, computers to toys … name it! Plastic, a ubiquitous material found in almost everything we use and consume, has moulded our society in many ways that makes life both easier and convenient. However, this synthetic material is currently leaving harmful imprints and raising one of the biggest environmental and health concerns in our world today. The reality is that if this is not tackled head-on, it will do us more evil than good.
Experts concurred that plastic waste can afflict us in every aspect and some of these are:
Food chain contamination: The varying sizes of plastics has allowed for easy pollution of even the world’s tiniest organisms such as plankton. When these organisms become poisoned due to plastic ingestion, this causes problems for the larger animals that depend on them for food. This can cause a whole slide of problems, each step further along the food chain including the fish and other seafood that humans eat every day.
Water pollution: Ever seen a garbage dump, imagine what happens every time it rains, and then imagine that being in your drinking water. Groundwater and reservoirs are susceptible to leaking environmental toxins. This has had terrible consequences on many marine species, which can lead to consequences for those that eat fish and marine life for nutrients – including people.
Land pollution: Plastics interacts with water and form hazardous chemicals when dumped in landfills. When these chemicals leach underground, they degrade the water quality. Wind carries and deposits plastic from one place to another, increasing the land litter and get stuck in drainage channels, which hinders free flow of water thereby causing floods when it rains.
Air pollution: The burning of plastics in open air releases poisonous chemicals which when inhaled by humans and animal affect their health by causing respiratory problems.
Animal Death: Plastic pollution in ecosystems have led to death of animals through ingestion of plastics or its presence in their habitats through poisoning.
Health challenges: Man artificially makes plastic by using a number of toxic chemicals. Therefore, use of and exposure to plastics has been linked to a number of health concerns affecting people around the world. The process of manufacturing, disposing and being around plastics can be extremely detrimental to humans and other living organisms.
Economic Implications: It costs millions of cash each year to clean affected areas after pollution, not to mention the loss of life to plants, animals, and people. In addition, excess pollution has led to decreased tourism in affected areas, significantly affecting those economies.
It may seem like large amounts of plastic wastes are inevitable in the world we live in, but you can help with the plastic pollution issue by being aware of its dangers and taking steps to reduce your waste. Again, experts agreed on the following as what we can do to reduce plastic waste:
Reduce: Cut down on your plastic footprint by reducing the amount of plastics you use.
Reuse: say no to single use of plastics.
Recycle: Purchase recycled products and do your best to recycle your plastic waste as much as possible. Remember that because plastic does not break down easily (if ever), recycling plastic means that it is still plastic, just being used for a different purpose.
Refuse: Refuse plastics especially when you go shopping.
Remove: This is the ultimate and best solution to plastic waste pollution. Cut off all plastics and every product that has plastic by making things yourself.
Recycle for wealth: In order to effectively tackle the challenge of plastic waste, we must see how we can convert wastes to wealth. For instance, a kilogram of plastic bottles and pure water sachet cost the sum of N30 and it takes just 7 plastic water bottles to make a jersey.
Create awareness: The Chairman of LUFASI Nature Park, Desmond Majekodunmi said, “Admonish people when you see them dropping waste irresponsibly because that plastic they are dropping could cause terrible problems like floods for that area when the rains come. You can politely, remind somebody that the road is not a dustbin, that the gutter is not a waste dump, that there are ways of disposing waste particularly plastic and guess what? There are several organizations now that will actually give you financial benefits if you bring in plastic for them.”
On the fear of not being able to survive without the use of plastics, an Assistant Programmes Officer at LUFASI – Rhoda Omotoye, was dismissive: “Before the invention of plastic humans survived and after the removal of plastics, we will survive better”. No wonder Mr Desmond Majekodunmi believes that the theme of Earth Day,2018 is very timely as the topic of plastic is highlighted as a major environmental problem “… because plastic is more luminous and presenting itself as a major environmental problem for the Earth and could soon constitute itself to be a bigger problem as climate change.”