Plastic products, despite their multiple uses in our daily lives, have been at the forefront of wrecking the environment for a long time. Researchers are just beginning to fathom the extent damage from plastic goods. It is estimated that in the year 2019 alone plastics will add more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere which is equal to the pollution from 189 new coal-fired power plants. The giant plastic industry is destroying the environment and endangering human health. If left unchecked, it would undermine efforts to reduce carbon pollution and to prevent a larger climate catastrophe for the world.

To see the matter in its proper perspective, generally the amount of garbage in the world increases as the population grows, and disposable plastic products, like water bottles and soda cans, accrue over time. Plastic pollution occurs when enough plastic gets accumulated in an area that it affects the natural environment and damages the ecosystem in plants, animals, or humans. Besides, at times inconsiderate civic behavior on the part of citizens does not do much to mitigate plastic pollution. People toss around used cans and bottles at random adding to the waste footprint in the environment.

Furthermore, plastic contains toxic pollutants that damage the environment and cause land, water, and air pollution. Plastic is hard to break down and survives the toughest environmental changes. The problem stems from the excessive daily use of plastic. It is not naturally biodegradable and exude copious amounts of toxins if incinerated through traditional means. If we look into our daily lives, plastic has become a permanent feature and it presents itself in all shapes and sizes, starting from a multitude of items in our kitchen i.e. milk and water bottles to tech items of our daily use like mobile phones, computers, and a host of other gadgets. Frustratingly, once these products run their course and become no longer usable, they do not just vanish into thin air but end up in the environment. Hordes of discarded plastic waste gets thrown in in dumps where they can affect the groundwater and nearby wildlife.

Another scourge of plastic pollution is its frequent use in commercial fishing nets that are made from plastic. Huge scathes of sprawling fishing nets exude deadly toxins and regularly endanger marine life. These nets, through overuse, get broken and parts are lost in the sea adding to its pollution. The long term corrosive effects of toxins released from plastic can affect marine species and in turn will halt the economic progress of a country. Planktons, tiny microscopic organisms that are a food source of other species, are directly affected by plastic toxins. It could lead to a major health hazard if the toxins from planktons end up in the marine food chain and eventually used by people at large.

In addition to extensive damage to ocean life, plastic pollution also affects groundwater sources, which constitutes a lifeline for humans. If water sources are contaminated at a large scale, the consequences would be beyond effective control mechanisms. Stray plastic waste littering streets, forests, beaches, and residential colonies are common sight thanks to the growing number plastic materials. A substantial number of animal species affected by plastic waste as it gets clogged in their stomachs choking them to death. It is no surprise that animal carcasses when cut open reveal a plethora of undigested plastic waste.

Plastic, as observed above is the major culprit for environmental damage and has an insidious effect on all aspects of human life. This crisis calls for effective counter mechanisms that can be put in place to curb plastic pollutions and minimize its drastic impact on the environment. People need to do away with mainstream use and production of single-use disposable plastic products and communities must be encouraged to transition to zero-waste alternatives instead of the ubiquitous plastic containers.

Our federal and provincial governments need to run awareness campaigns geared at educating the public in the inherent dangers emanating from plastic pollution. To begin with, the use of shopping bags at grocery stores may be abandoned in the favor of more environmentally friendly alternatives i.e. cardboards and cloth bags that are more biodegradable. People need to avoid plastic straws and opt for healthier means. Boycotting plastic in all the ways possible can have small incremental benefits in the long run.


About Author

Leena Shah Mir is a freelance analyst from Gwadar, Balochistan.

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