I would like to draw your attention to something we all witness everyday, but almost no one has decided to stand up for. Plastic pollution. This is a problem that is disrupting our Earth’s delicate ecosystem, at a fast pace. Single-use plastics and trash now cloak a piece of the ocean the size of Texas, and it continues to grow, crowding out the very home of our marine animal friends. Plastic pollution is not only harming your health, but also your wallet.
Americans make about 10.5 million metric tons of plastic waste per year, but only 1 to 2% is truly recycled. The rest finds it’s way into oceans all over the world. But how does this affect the living organisms in the oceans? For example, almost every Laysan Albatross bird has ingested plastic in it’s life. The plastic in their stomachs is fed to their chicks, causing them to choke, and in most cases, die. Young green sea turtles swimming out to sea for the first time can easily mistake a floating plastic bag for a delicious jelly fish snack. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 10,000 marine mammals die annually due to the plastic they mistake for food. Animals are tricked into thinking their stomachs are satisfied with plastic, but do not get any nutrition from eating it, and eventually starve to death. The same happens for many fish and sea birds.
Single use plastic amenities seem like a simple part of everyday life, that we could not survive without. In all honesty, it is quite the opposite. As I’m sure you already know, the chemical in plastics called bisphenol A (BPA) has been linked to various health malfunctions and has thus been banned by the FDA. But recent studies have shown that the replacement chemical for BPA, BPS is just as harmful. Recent research shows that BPS can seep through plastic containers into our food. One of the main elements of BPS and BPA is benzene, a carcinogen that has been proved to cause countless different types of cancers. Another harmful ingredient in BPS is vinyl chloride, which is used in most of our plastic grocery bags, and even children’s toys. Vinyl chloride has been know to be the cause of hormonal imbalances, reproductive and developmental dysfunctions, and even brain cancer.
Plastic pollution is not only deadly to our health, but also to our wallets. In theory, we should consume about 8 cups of water per day. 8 cups of tap water per day for one year costs about 49 cents. 8 cups of bottled water costs about $1,400. That is simply unacceptable. $1,400 spent on something already provided to your house for almost nothing. Let’s say you went grocery shopping 1 a week for a year and bought a plastic bag each time. It would only cost about 1.82 cents. That is inexpensive, but we must also take into account the effect these plastic bags have on our environment. Sure there is a small price to pay to conveniently carry groceries out of the store. But we will end paying a much higher price in the end.
The question to ask ourselves now is what can we do to prevent this monster from growing any larger. I propose we set aside funding for plastic research. Money can also be given to start foundations devoted to finding a biodegradable substitute for plastics. School teachers can be encouraged to start clubs to inform students of the mess we are making, and what we can do to start to clean it up. Campaigns can be started to inform the public about plastic pollution, and should be emboldened to take a stand themselves and possibly begin to use reusable grocery bags, or a metal water bottle instead of a plastic one. The price of plastic grocery bags should be raised, to discourage shoppers from using them.
Plastic pollution is something that continues to debilitate our planet each day. This is certainly not something that should be ignored or taken lightly. Our culture has become trained to rely on one thing that could end life on our planet as we know it. We only have one planet that can support us, so let’s do what we can to take care of it like it has us since the beginning of time. We can save the lives of our innocent sea creatures, take care of our own health, and also save money, if we decide to be the generation to make a change, once and for all.