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Plastic pollution primarily affects fresh and salt water supplies. While ocean plastic mostly impacts marine life and human populations living along the coast, the contamination of fresh water supplies poses a danger to all social groups and classes. Nevertheless, impoverished and vulnerable populations are the most exposed to the negative effects of plastic pollution. At the same time, the individuals within the subgroup have the potential of negatively affecting one another, further exacerbating the issue. The purpose of this paper is to analyze formal and informal group pressures within socially-disadvantaged populations.
Formal Group Pressures
The primary type of formal group pressure within the disadvantaged population groups and coastal settlements comes from the local governments. Since poor communities are associated with higher rates of crime and vandalism, governments often do not embark on ecological initiatives in favor of other infrastructural needs (McKinnon & Alston, 2016). The effects of plastic on human health are generally long-term, mostly associated with infected tap water. According to the analysis of tap water worldwide, 83% of it is polluted with plastic, while in the US, that number rises to 94% (Singh & Cooper, 2017).
This type of formal group pressure can be exemplified by the refusal of local governments to enforce bans on plastic cups and bags and the failure to provide appropriate recycling containers to be used by the general populace. As a result, impoverished and coastal communities have no way of reducing their own ecological footprint, which contributes to various health concerns.
Informal Group Pressures
Impoverished communities have notorious lower standards of education as well as lower healthcare, environmental, and social awareness. As such, individuals are less likely to realize the dangers of plastic pollution and its influence in their everyday lives. According to Singh and Cooper (2017), 80% of all plastic refuse, which consists of bags, plastic cups, and bottles, ends up in the water. At the same time, having a conversation on an informal level about these topics is extremely difficult. Individuals will dismiss it in favor of much more pressing personal problems, such as poverty, unemployment, criminality, and racial discrimination (McKinnon & Alston, 2016). These issues have an immediate and substantial effect on the communities when compared to distant and uncertain issues related to pollution.
Thus, informal group pressure forces individuals who are aware and care about the environment to remain quiet about it out of fear of looking irrelevant and blind to the more pressing matters (McKinnon & Alston, 2016). This prevents the spread of information in the most affected communities, leaving the majority of people in the dark about plastic pollution. Social nihilism, which is often the result of low expectations and subpar life standards, makes people care less about the next day and the distant future. Many individuals living in impoverished communities are apathetic towards what they would leave their children and focus on the present instead.
Impoverished and coastal communities face a plethora of challenges and group pressures from their own members as well as the government. These pressures result in lower awareness of plastic pollution, higher rates of contamination, and a lesser degree of social concern. With a plethora of other problems present in these communities, the scope of environmental issues fails to attract attention. Formal group pressures are the dominant force in this equation, as poverty and social stratification is often a result of poor governance. Until the overall situation improves, it is unlikely for people to care about plastic pollution.
McKinnon, J., & Alston, M. (Eds.). (2016). Ecological social work: Towards sustainability. London, UK: Macmillan International Higher Education.
Singh, J., & Cooper, T. (2017). Towards a sustainable business model for plastic shopping bag management in Sweden. Procedia CIRP, 61, 679-684.