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Plastic Pollution and Its Consequences Essay

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2022

The chemical content of plastic

Plastics are made from chemicals extracted from dirty, non-renewable natural resources. Such resources include fossil oils, naturally occurring gases, and coal (Thompson, 2018). Plastics are considered organic rather than inorganic because of their chemical properties. A molecule is categorized as organic if it has hydrogen and carbon atoms in its structure with carbon atoms being its main building blocks. Organic molecules are large and have a complex structure when compared to inorganic ones. On the other hand, inorganic molecules have a simple structure and usually lack carbon atoms. Chemically, plastic molecules are made of numerous elements such as nitrogen and oxygen, including hydrogen and carbon atoms, which form the main part of their structure.

The materials from which humans extract carbon occur naturally and form part of the lithosphere. Coal is an example of these materials and is formed from flora and fauna remains that were part of the biosphere. After use and disposal, carbon ends up in the lithosphere and hydrosphere in solid form (Thompson, 2018). The solids degenerate into small particles, some of which are absorbed in the biosphere through ingestion by living organisms.

Carbon-rich molecules are used to generate the energy required in the manufacture of carbon. After the process, the carbon in these energy sources ends up in different spheres including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and the biosphere. Combustion of carbon-rich molecules results in gaseous and liquid byproducts. Gases such as carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere from where they are absorbed into the biosphere. Water in vapor form is also a product of combusted carbon-rich molecules and forms part of the hydrosphere from where it is absorbed into the biosphere.

Plastic Pollution Consequences

Plastic pollution has various potential environmental consequences, with micro-plastic invasion, especially its impact on humans and animals, being of great concern. Micro-plastic invasion describes the appearance of minute plastics, also referred to as micro-plastics in the environment. Microplastics include all tiny plastic particles whose size range from 5mm to microscopic. Some of these particles are factory manufactured while others result from the degrading big plastic products such as bottles and bags.

Inefficient disposal methods of plastic wastes are the main causes of micro-plastic pollution. There are about 15 trillion tons of micro-plastics in the oceans, with an equivalent amount in the lakes and soils worldwide (UNEP, 2018). Animals such as fish have ingested these tiny plastic particles, with the microscopic ones being absorbed by plants such as planktons. The absorption of micro-plastics by plants is alarming as they are the basis of food chains.

The study by Browne in 2008 that proved the presence of microplastics in a mussel’s bloodstream demonstrates the ecological implications of micro-plastic invasion (Thompson, 2018). Traces of micro-plastics have also been found in drinking water and the air (UNEP, 2018). In addition, micro-plastics can be absorbed from plastic utensils and cosmetics (Thompson, 2018). Humans and other animals are at risk of harm by these particles. Scholars claim that exposure to these particles affects the reproduction, growth, and immunity of organisms and their subsequent generations (Thompson, 2018).

The largest use of plastic

My largest use of plastics today is of facemasks when protecting myself from the spreading COVID-19. I have been using single-use facemasks daily since the declaration of the virus as a pandemic. Research about these facemasks has indicated that they are made from plastics derived from fossil fuels (Chan, 2020). It has pointed out the alarming increase of deposits of single-use facemasks in water bodies such as rivers and the sea. Researchers estimate that countries like the United Kingdom would generate 66,000 tons of waste in a year from single-use masks (Chan, 2020). Such findings are of great concern to me as they suggest my contribution to the increased plastic pollution. For this reason, I plan to start using reusable masks and those made of cloth. I also intend to encourage my friends to embrace this strategy to reduce the generation of plastic waste and pollution to the environment.

References

Chan, E. (2020). Disposable face masks and gloves are a plastics nightmare—but what’s the solution? Web.

Thompson, A. (2018). From fish to humans, a microplastic invasion may be taking a toll. Scientific American. Web.

UNEP. (2018). Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution. This world environment day, it’s time for a change. Unep.org. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Plastic Pollution and Its Consequences." June 20, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/plastic-pollution-and-its-consequences/.

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