Plastic, for its convenience and cheap, we can find any type of plastics at almost everywhere. Many industries and businesses choose plastic for packaging and any other benefit. The production of plastic still increasing until today. This is ironic given the damages that it can cause to our environment. I will talk more about that later.
A Brief History of Plastic
The first production of plastic started in 1907. The research of plastic since then was still ongoing. Until around world war II (in the 1940s and 1950s) the mass production started and the figure increased by 300%. People began to aware of plastic pollution not from 10 or 20 years ago, in fact, the first observation was conducted in the 1960an. Although it is been 113 years since the first production of plastic, we may still find those plastics, or at least it’s tiny particles, at somewhere because of plastic needs 400-500 years to decompose.
There are a lot of problems that can cause by plastic, but I just want to talk about some of then on this blog.
- Killing Animals
All plastic we dump end up in three places: landfill, ocean, or recycled. Around 28,6 million tons of plastic received by landfills in 2017 and expected around 150 million metric tons circulated through our ocean. Some of the plastics break down quickly into tiny particles, and those tiny particles can sometimes easily mistaken by animals for prey. 1 million seabirds already died because of this issue. If we look at the beginning, in 1960, fewer than 5% of seabirds ingested plastic, the growth really socking tough, only 20 years after the figure escalated dramatically by 80%. If this problem persists, by 2050, an estimated 99% of seabird species will be ingesting plastic.
The way of seabird dying is different from one and another depends on the type of plastic. If the plastic is sharp it could kill seabird quickly, and if it’s not, the seabird will starve to death as a result of feel full but not receive any nutrients. Some of the seabirds may dye as the effect of chemicals that coat plastic. Seabird is not the only animal that is affected, other animals such as fish, sea turtles, and other marine animals are also facing the same problems.
- Accelerate Climate Change
If the plastic pollution on the ocean brings lots of damages to animals, why we do not just dump into landfills and or burn it? First, that is not easy, and second, that also brings another environmental impact that I want to talk about. Before we jump into plastic waste, let’s start from the beginning. Over 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. And as we know, fossil fuels produce a lot of carbon dioxide when burned and it leads to climate change. The process of creating plastic itself emits 12.5 to 13.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per year and not to mention the area in which to develop plastic must be cleared. 19.2 acres have been cleared for this matter and this of course increasing carbon emission. In the United State, 1.6 million billion metric tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere as a result of clearing.
We often found the incineration is an effort to stamp out plastic waste. That actually doesn’t solve the problem because incineration emits CO2. Emission from plastic incineration in 2015 were 5.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and expected to be increased to 49 million metric tons by 2030 and 91 metric tons by 2050.
Now the only option that we have is recycling. I agree, and many industries should make new plastic from the recycling process. Unfortunately, recycling is high cost with low commercial value.
I will talk more about the numbers of carbon dioxide and what damage relating to each grade of the number.