Climate change is threatening humanity, and the world is trying to curb fossil fuels to fix it. However, the plastic crisis is presenting the same level of destruction to our world, and not enough is being done to combat this threat.
And unlike climate change, people can actually see the plastic waste all around them. Look on the side of the road, you are sure to find multiple pieces of plastic waste. Or, look up pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
It’s all around us.
But what if I told you this was just the surface of the problem?
It is leading to problems for both wildlife and humanity.
How Is Plastic Impacting Wildlife?
Unfortunately, animals cannot identify that plastic is harmful when they consume it. This can end up with them filling their stomach with plastic, but dying of starvation due to not getting enough nutrients.
An example of this is the reports of elephants dying from eating at the open landfill in Sri Lanka. So far, the death count is over 20 in eight years. What makes this especially troublesome is that these elephants are endangered.
And it’s not just the wildlife on the land that is being impacted. Residents of the sea have it much worse.
In 2010, around 15% of all fish collected contained plastic within their stomach. The same research conducted again in 2017, saw that percentage rise to 33%.
The percentage is likely even higher today as the concentration of plastic continues to grow in the ocean. However, eating plastic is only half of the problem. Plastics also introduce new pathogens into the sea.
According to research in 2018, coral reefs that come in contact with plastic have an 89% chance of contracting a disease. There’s also the huge problem of how wildlife, both in the sea and on land, can get caught within plastic objects.
What About Humannity?
The research concluded that microplastics cause damage to human cells in a variety of ways. The report also noted that irregularly shaped plastic particles cause more damage to our cells than spherical ones.
Just like wildlife, we are consuming plastic, with the main difference being unknowing. It’s not nearly enough that it would fill our stomach to any notable capacity, but the microplastics present a danger to our cells and can cause allergic reactions.
It’s not just food, either. We are literally breathing in plastic particles every day. Once plastic is in our world, there is not really a way to get rid of it.
Can the Plastic Crisis Be Solved?
Just about any problem can be solved, but the real question here is if the plastic crisis will be solved before it gets worse?
Honestly, no one knows for sure. The entire world is focused on climate change and for good reason. But if history is any indicator, the world is not good at managing multiple crises.
It’s likely that substantial action will not be taken to fight plastic pollution any time soon.
It would require an international agreement and regulation within multiple major economies to have a serious impact. Even when the problem is the size of a country, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world is very slow to react.
That said, many nations and cities around the world are implementing measures to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. Steps are being taken, but like climate change, they are not fast or drastic enough to fix the core problem.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.