Do you remember the last time you were out eating some snacks and you were not eating them from plastic containers? No. That’s how addicted to plastic we are. If not a plastic container, you must have used
While plastic may have many valuable uses, the worrisome thing is that of all the plastic that is produced, about the half is single-use. The situation is so bad that the amount of plastic that is in use has started to adversely affect the environment, animals, and humans.
How did we get here?
If we look at the history of how plastic usage became so common, we find that it is only because of the negligence of humans that we are at the cusp of environmental and health disasters. According to the UN data, up to 1970s, a very small amount of plastic was used and therefore, it could easily be managed. However, two decades later the production increased almost threefold. The surge in the use of plastic was continuous and as a result, today, we produce nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic every year. That means we generate as much plastic waste each year as the weight of the entire human population. It is a negative and very worrying trend.
The single-use plastic products
The biggest culprit behind this problem is the single-use plastic products. As the name suggests, the single-use plastic products are the ones that are used just once and then thrown away. They become a part of enormous amounts of plastic garbage. According to the researchers, 60% of the entire plastic produced since the 1950s has ended up in a natural environment or a landfill.
These single-use plastic products are everywhere. Those polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers, potato chip bags, polyethylene carry bags, plastic cutlery, hot drink cups, protective packaging made from polystyrene, etc. are a few examples of what is contributing to plastic pollution that us putting everything on the planet in jeopardy.
How plastic pollution affects health?
Eating and drinking from plastic containers are linked to health concerns. Also, the plasticizers used in toys, flooring, etc. are very dangerous. Flame retardants used in electronic equipment are another cause of concern. Here’s how using plastic can adversely affect human health:
1.Bisphenol-A found in plastic containers and cutlery is known to disrupt the endocrine system, which can lead to major health concerns. The endocrine system is responsible for maintenance of metabolism, heart rate, digestion, sexual function, temperature, mood, and much more. Therefore, if the endocrine system is messed up, your whole body gets messed up. This can lead to major endocrine disorders like obesity, thyroid cancer, low testosterone, osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, etc. The World Health Organization (WHO) has found concrete evidences of effects of these chemicals in plastic on various bodily functions like metabolism, brain function, thyroid function, and insulin and glucose homeostasis.
2. Phthalates are plastic softeners and have been linked with reproductive problems, developmental disorders, toxicity, and adverse effects on the pulmonary system.
3. Plastic pollution in oceans is also linked to major health concerns as the marine ecosystem is crucial in oxygen production, nutrient cycles, and carbon capture. The plastic pollution in the oceans is expected to surpass the total mass of fish by 2050.
What should we do?
Immediate and critical steps are required to be taken to curb the disasters that can result from plastic pollution. Here are a few things we can do to:
- Ask your food supplier to pack your food in non-plastic packaging.
- Take your own non-plastic bags to the supermarket.
- Refuse to take plastic cutlery and straws. Instead, use the safer version like those made from steel.
- Carry a refillable water bottle with you and avoid buying the PET bottles.
- Support the ban on plastic.
- Recycle the plastic that can be.
- Raise awareness about plastic pollution.