Your View: Plastic pollution threatens to smother planet

How many plastic bottles can a person walk past a day? How much plastic do we surround ourselves in while getting dressed? Plastic seems as necessary to human life as the water sold inside pristine synthetic bottles. But those convenient containers are haunting Earth.

Humans and their corporate counterparts have developed an obsession. The global consumption of plastic must be slowed to an eventual halt; our lives are based on an unhealthy addiction to plastic in everything from packaging to clothing, causing damage to our oceans and wildlife.

According to the nonprofit environmental organization, Plastic Oceans International, over 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year.

That amount not only causes large amounts of carbon emissions during its creation, but some of it remains around as waste because plastic breaks down very slowly. Humans have become reliant to a point of wrapping foods that already have natural protective layers.

But reliance isn’t the only problem — where does all the plastic go? Much of it ends up in the world’s oceans. “There will be more plastic pollution in the oceans than fish by 2050,” according to a story in The Independent.

These would be devastating numbers even if we were only concerned about the effects on marine life, but plastic pollution also impacts human existence. Fish that swallow plastic often feed humans and other animals on shore.

This problem is heightened by what are known as microplastics. Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long that can be harmful to our oceans and aquatic life. Microplastics often come from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces.

Microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. They can also result from over-washing polyester clothing, a common material in athletic wear. These microplastics are eaten by fish and other animals that are exposed, and can end up on our dinner plates in the form of a salmon or tilapia filet.

The plastic problem is spurring activism across the world. In 2017, the United Nations held a summit to discuss how to deal with the issue. “So far, ten countries have already joined the campaign with far-reaching pledges to turn the plastic tide,” according to an Inter Press Service story. “Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter a massive 70 percent by 2025.”

Huge pledges were made by small countries but not the U.S. Plastic manufacturers and users are among the larger companies in America and have routinely been able to keep legislation they don’t like from becoming law.

California, however, is setting a good example by drafting bills to reduce food-related plastic waste over the next 10 years. Following suit is the best option for the rest of the country. Change is what people and the Earth need.

I am 17 years old; I drive a car to school every day, but I have pledged to myself to make as little plastic waste as possible. And with that, I challenge everyone to do the same.

We have the power to opt for a glass iced tea bottle or aluminum toothpaste tube. With a few daily switches, we can cut plastic pollution to a miniscule amount. Remember reusable shopping bags at Target and cups at Dunkin’. Take to Twitter and letter writing to call out favorite brands on unsustainable business practices or to ask for a ban of plastic straws.

With enough individuals making the switch, we can make a difference.

If there is one last reason to notice the problem and take action against it, please notice the children surrounded by plastic. Manufacturers put suffocation warnings on plastic bags to protect babies when they could just stop making the bags in the first place.

Children are poisoned by pollution, and society needs to recognize that our actions in the next 10 years dictate how future generations see the world.

We must pick up the bottles on the street, rinse them, place them in recycling bins, and take a pledge against single-use plastics. People must recognize that each day the world should be left cleaner than when we found it ― and with that comes a solution to our plastic addiction.


This article was originally published by GRACE EDINGER,

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