BEAT PLASTIC POLLUTION
We live in a planet that is very good at sustaining life but even better at taking it. The threat of pollution to our very existence is one which requires our collective responsibility. Our greatest challenge in this century seems to be how we can live a sustainable life or more accurately how to ensure we leave a sustainable environment for the future generations. Pollution occurs when a substance is in a larger than normal concentration in the environment through human activities. Plastic pollution occurs when plastic waste has gathered in an area and has begun to negatively affect the natural ecosystems.Living in this century is all about conveniences and plastic gives this“convenience” a whole new meaning.They are inexpensive,easy to carry and easily accessible.The sore point is that they are mostly non-biodegradable i.e. they cannot be broken down by natural processes. This particular trait makes plastic an environmental nuisance in the sense that they are everywhere.
Plastic wastes are of such abundance in our environment because they are modern conveniences and supposed necessities.They constitute our beverage bottles, drugs,buckets,Chemical bottles,plastic bags, plastic chair,takeout containers, straws, stirrers,plastic foams, bottle caps and the list is endless.These are materials with everyday application and hence explain the abundance of plastic waste in our environment. The challenges of indiscriminate disposal of plastic wastes which pose a threat to human health and the environment is a topic of much discuss and of great scientific interest.
Our environment is where we live, survive, and thrive. Our survival in our environment depends on quality land, air, and ocean.If these factors are threatened, then our survival is under threat. In our society today,most people are not aware or are nonchalant about the effect of plastic pollution.People make use of plastic materials and dump them everywhere anywhere.This indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste constitutes an environmental nuisance and hazard.Nuisance in the sense that it is an eyesore and makes the environment unattractive.It is a hazard because of its composition.Plastics are made from petroleum products that have undergone polymerization reaction to form new substances. These materials are not biodegradable but are photo-degradable. When these plastic wastes get dumped into landfills, after sometime,they begin to release their toxic components into the soil.Poorly managed landfills as is the norm in this country can lead to escape of plastic waste.These plastic wastes are washed down into the oceans and this subsequently affects marine life.The indiscriminate burning of plastic waste in our environment also constitutes air pollution.Plastic are highly flammable and release toxic materials into the atmosphere contributing to climate change.
The effect of plastic waste on marine ecosystem cannot be overemphasized. Of the 260 million tonnes of plastic produce each year, about 10 percent ends up in the oceans according to Green space report(Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans,2006)Plastics are found everywhere in the coastal part of the developing countries. Plastic wastes in the oceans come from land-based sources, urban runoff, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal, industrial activities, construction, illegal dumping etc. Plastic waste is also generated from ocean-based activities such as fishing, nautical activities and aquaculture.The most obvious and noticeable impact of marine plastic pollution is the suffocation and entanglement of marine species.Marine animals like sea turtle,crustaceans often get entangle in fishing nets and plastic debris.This entanglement can cause lacerations and infections to the animal and can hamper their ability to find food or escape from predators. Some of these animals also mistaken plastic as food source. This is called accidental ingestion and has been associated with reduce food intake in some marine animals.Some of these animals can however digest plastic to some extent to form microplastics. It has been reported that 90% of seabirds contain plastic in their stomach. Micro plastics are also formed by the action of solar radiation and agents of weathering on larger plastics. Micro plastics are more of a threat in plastic waste because they are more difficult to monitor and more of a threat partly because they may have greater impacts at a chemical and physical levels on the ecosystems and human health because of their size and their large volume to surface area ratio.Plastic wastes in oceans also get transported by ocean current over long distances and the accumulation of these can lead to the release of toxic contaminants into aquatic habitat.
The consensus is that we can change our world by changing our actions.We are our environment and through our actions/inaction, we can build or destroy our planet. It is within our power to stop the indiscriminate dumping of plastics everywhere.We need to curb our excesses and try as much as possible to live a sustainable life.
Another way we can beat plastic pollution is by enlightening the public about the effect of plastic waste on our ecosystem. REES Africa is already championing awareness and sensitizing the entire public about the need to #beatplasticpollution.