In Part I of this series, we’ve discussed about how versatile and useful plastic is to our everyday life. However, the very same attributes that made plastics so desirable, actually brings about an immense amount of pollution onto the natural environment. The 2 main attributes of the plastic is that its Cheap to produce, and that its Chemically inert.
- Cheap to Produce
Benefits: affordable for consumers, easy for mass production.
Drawbacks: Because plastic is so cheap to produce, it has gave rise to a “Disposable Culture” where many of these plastic products are casually discarded after a single use.
It is estimated that:
- The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year
- Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
- Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
- 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
As a result of this “use and throw away” culture, the world is gradually being covered by plastics. This has resulted in massive land and ocean pollution in many parts of the world (to be elaborated on in later posts).
2. Chemically Inert
Benefits: Plastic is an ideal material for making packaging and containers as they are mostly chemically inert and will not interact with other substances. This make plastic ideal for the storage of acids, alkaline and gasoline.
Drawbacks: However, because plastics chemically inert, it takes a massively long time to degrade. Different kinds of plastic can degrade at different times, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is at least 450 years. It can even take some bottles 1000 years to biodegrade. Hence, this makes plastics disposal a difficult and significant environmental problem. Moreover, when plastic decomposes, they tend to leach potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A into the seas, possibly threatening ocean animals, and us.
- We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
- Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
- Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
I hope that today’s post can inspire to use less plastic and instead opt for more recyclable options =)
For more facts on plastic pollution, do visits: