In grocery stores of the past, you were asked whether you prefer paper or plastic. These days, you’re not even asked – your items are automatically stuffed in bags, and multiple ones at that. Although some shops still employ the use of paper to bag items, the use of plastic is global.
It’s true that plastic bags are not expensive to produce and they are so much more easier to carry around. As a result of this convenience, we now see plastic bags everywhere: filling up landfills, hanging from the branches of trees, being swept away by the wind, clogging roadside drains and being afloat on high seas. Even worse, plastic bags have been found in the bellies of sea turtles.
The Effect of Plastics on the Environment
Trash, in general, travels throughout the rivers and oceans of the world where they then accumulate on beaches. These debris is capable of harming physical habitats and not only that, they also transport chemical pollutants, threaten aquatic life and interfere with how people use river, marine and coastal environments.
Plastic, without a doubt, is proving to be harmful to not only the environment but to humans and wildlife as well. Here are the ways they impact the world we live in:
- It is mistaken for food by animals. We have evidence of plastic debris being ingested not only by fish, sea birds and sea turtles but by marine mammals as well. For sea turtles, they can mistake plastic debris for their food as it may resemble jellyfish, their prey. Predators, such as fur seals, may ingest plastic material because their diet consists of consuming fish (and this may include those that have eaten plastic). Problems arise when they eat plastics as it may wound them, impair their feeding capacity, decrease mobility and predatory avoidance and toxicity.
- It alters the habitat. The accumulation of debris causes habitats to be modified and these include the reduction of light levels in underlying waters and the depletion of oxygen levels. Such changes undermine the ability of marine habitats to support aquatic life.
- It transports contaminants into the food chain. Plastic debris in different waterways absorb chemicals from the environment and serve as the means of transporting contaminants to the food chain and eventually to humans who eat various seafood.
- It harms the river and marine organisms. An estimated 267 species around the world are affected by plastic debris: 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals.
- It affects human activities. The US Environmental and Protection Agency says that plastic debris in rivers and oceans “interfere with navigation, impede commercial and recreational fishing, threaten health and safety, and reduce tourism.” Vessel navigation is greatly affected by large debris like derelict fishing nets and lines floating at the surface or below it.
The number of plastic debris everywhere humans travel is increasing. And it’s clear that it is a threat not only to the environment but also to human life as well as that of animals.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.