What is Single-use Plastic and Why is it Hazardous to the Environment?

What is Single-use Plastic and Why is it Hazardous to the Environment?

Did you know that the world has nine billion tonnes of plastic? This is equivalent to 4 Mount Everests worth of waste – and just 9% is recycled? 

One of the most monumental problems of all is single-use plastic, but do you know what that term means?

Understanding Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastic is easy to understand.  It refers to plastic packaging that cannot be used again and may or may not be recycled depending on the plastic material type, hence its name.

Here’s a list of some single-use plastic items:

  • Straws
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Disposable plastic lids for hot drinks
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Take-away boxes and drinks’ cups
  • Cigarette ends
  • Food wraps
  • Bottle caps
  • Stirrers

All of these are common, everyday items that pose a hazard to the environment.  To lead a pure living lifestyle, it is wise to take note of your own plastic packaging that you purchase and make a vow not to buy products that involve single-use plastic.

Single Use Plastic

On a positive note, many huge global companies have sat up and taken notice of the environmental dangers of single-use plastic. For example, Hyatt Hotels has banned single-use plastic, so has Starbucks and McDonalds (in some countries).

Many countries around the world are joining forces to stop the use of single-use plastic; some have started their bans (16 in all) including the United Kingdom, the USA and Taiwan. India will follow later this year in October. Additionally, there are 127 countries that have some form of legislation in place to kerb the use of this type of plastic. Many countries now have taxation on carry bags, for example, in some states in India if you go shopping to a supermarket, you are asked to pay for carry bags, therefore, encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags with them and re-use.

India’s single-use plastic ban comes into force on 2nd October this year, with the plan being that all single-use plastics will be scrapped by 2022.  The ban will mean corporates such as airports, hotels, offices and airlines will eventually remove all use of single-use plastic, replacing it with recyclable plastic or cardboard and paper. The ban covers the import and manufacturing of single-use plastic.  This is doubtless a fantastic initiative. India has one of the biggest coastlines in the world, and so is responsible for some of the pollution problem in the oceans surrounding the country. This ban will help to prevent fish and other marine life from going into extinction.  It also will positively impact on the toxicity problem of the chemicals that linger from decomposing plastic, so that humans and land animals don’t ingest the harmful chemicals that could endanger their lives.

Why is Single-Use Plastic Harming the Environment?

Some Facts!

Bear in mind that plastics don’t biodegrade; they just slowly turn into micro-plastics, tiny particles of plastic.  Not only does it pose danger to marine life, these micro-plastics release toxic chemicals that eventually transfer into the atmosphere, plant life and animal tissue.  Remember, we humans eat meat, fish, fruit and vegetables – even a strict vegan is not safe from these toxic chemicals because they enter plants and animal tissue.  Worryingly, not many people realise that Styrofoam (a single-use plastic), for example, is extremely toxic and if it is ingested, it can seriously damage reproductive organs, the lungs and the nervous system.   

150 million tons of plastic is literally floating around in our oceans, poisoning the fish and plant life.  It’s also getting worse. Every year, 8 million tons of plastic lands up in the water and if it doesn’t stop, by 2050, ultimately there could be more plastic than fish. Sobering stuff!

What can We Do?

As well as country bans, what can we do about it?  Well, we can all be more aware of what single-use plastic we have in our homes, it’s definitely time to own up, take action and change! Why not start your day by brushing with a bamboo toothbrush. Every toothbrush manufactured since 1930 is still on our planet. That's billions and billions of them!! 

Don’t use shopping bags made of plastic, instead, use cloth bags or paper bags and take them out with you when you go shopping.   Take your own flasks of tea or coffee to work, use coffee shops that provide re-usable disposable cups.  Don’t buy plastic water bottles – use a Chilly bottle or similar flask-type instead.  Never buy plastic straws, buy paper instead. Refuse one, if offered it when in a restaurant or bar.

 

On a positive note, more and more countries are taking ownership of the single-use plastic problem. This is all good news, but we as individuals also need to take responsibility to live a pure lifestyle. Every person on the planet should take note, get on-board and lead a life which as far as possible involves only using recyclable materials.

In a world of environmental dangers, we need to own up, act and change to make it a better place for future generations.


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