Plastic was revolutionary in the past. It is a material that is very durable, hard, and can be molded very easily into various forms. It can be mass-produced and can be used to make computers, phones, and syringes. People looked at it as the material of the future. Disneyland had a house of the future made of plastic.
We are producing an incredible amount of plastic, but the production is out of control. Almost everything that we have is partially made of plastic. It is made of polymers that are very durable. However, this durability makes plastic very difficult to eliminate. Plastic takes an average of 1000 years to decompose, and we decided to use plastic for things that are made to be thrown away after its first use. We produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic so far. 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic produced have become waste. 79 % of that plastic is polluting the world, especially the sea. 8 million tons per year end in the oceans. 90 % of those 8 million tons come from countries in Asia and Africa that are industrializing in a fast way. Animals eat that plastic and die because they can’t digest it. It is causing severe damage to the ecosystem.
Despite the problems that we know, there is an unknown and undetected problem: microplastics. Microplastic results from pieces from the sea that become smaller and smaller due to the UV radiation from the sun. Those microscopic pieces are eaten by all animals in the sea. The food chain brings those microplastic to the land and ends in our food and drinks. If the plastic is toxic, this could be really dangerous. It is believed that chemicals in the plastic like BPA and DEHP that give plastic its properties like transparency and flexibility, could cause cancer and interfere with our hormones. Nearly all adults have phthalates, a plastic additive, in their bodies. 93 % of people have BPA in their urine. However, there is much unknown about the effect of microplastic, but it could be very dangerous if it keeps increasing.
What should we do? Eliminating the production of all plastic could cause more pollution because their replacements like paper also have their own impact on the world. We should focus on the unnecessary waste that we produce. It is also good to know that 90 % of the plastic that ends in the ocean comes from ten rivers from Asia and Africa. Pressuring our governments to reduce plastic pollution is as important as investing in infrastructure in developing countries.
We have to refuse disposable plastics and make our politicians and companies take the actions to keep our oceans clean. During the last 100 years, pollution increased at a rate never seen before. However, the new mentality of recent years can transform the planet and stop the incredible damage caused by humanity.