One of the most pressing environmental issues today is the inability of the world to deal with increasing plastic pollution. As plastic production continues on a rapid pace, the world is having a hard time managing those that are discarded—especially given the fact that nearly everything we use now is either made up of plastic or has plastic components.
Not only does plastic harm the environment but it also poses a danger to our health. According to National Geographic, we eat thousands of microplastics a year that can be toxic for us. If that is not enough for us to take plastic production and pollution as a serious issue, here are seven other worrying facts that may just convince you.
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In 2015, researchers found out that the production of plastic has blown to 380 million tons in 65 years. Single-use plastics now account for 40 percent of the plastic made every year, which stem from our throw-away culture. List25.com, a website that compiles lesser-known intriguing information on a variety of subjects, says about 34 billion tons of plastic will be produced by 2050.
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Plastic kills thousands of animals
Animals often mistake pieces of plastics for food, prompting them to eat the material. Eating plastics prevent the animal from digesting their food, leading to a slow and painful death. Hundreds of thousands of species die every year due to the plastic they eat.
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A garbage patch is growing in the Pacific
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a slow swirling whirlpool of ocean currents collecting plastic debris—is estimated to grow to double its size in the next 10 years. According to Eco-Pliant, a company that sells and distributes wholesale paper straws and other environment-friendly products, the patch is currently twice the size of France and cleaning it up isn’t that easy.
At least 67 ships are needed to collect just one percent of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
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Plastic straws are among the top polluters
Humans use and throw away over 500 million plastic straws every day. It’s hard to recycle straws because of their small size, making it rare to have them end up in recycling centers. This makes plastic straws one of the top polluters on beaches and bodies of water.
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Microplastics are everywhere
Exposure to sunlight, wind, and wave breaks down plastic waste into small particles called microplastics. These then spread throughout the water column and end up in various parts of the world. A further breakdown can lead to so-called plastic microfibers ending up in municipal drinking water and drift through the air.
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They take a long time to degrade
It’s a known fact that plastics take a long time to decay—often taking decades—caused by the additives that make the product stronger, more flexible, and durable. National Geographic says this extends the life of plastic products up to at least 400 years.
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It’s nearly impossible to collect plastic waste in oceans
Since plastic waste is broken down into microplastic when they end up in oceans and exposed to the elements, it becomes difficult to retrieve them. Large pieces of plastic can be easily collected, but microplastics are virtually impossible to collect so that they just drift into water columns and go wherever the waves take them.
The only solution to this is to prevent plastic waste from entering bodies of water, which could be done by improving waste management systems, recycling, and reducing the production of single-use plastics.