May 26, 2017
Environmental Concerns and Solutions
I want to talk about plastic pollution. Though all plastic food containers are an issue, let's have a look at single-use plastic bottles. It is estimated that annually 80 billion water bottles are used in the United States alone. Roughly 80% of these water bottles end up as litter. Furthermore, only PET bottles can be recycled, and the rest are discarded into landfills for founding littering our planet. PET bottles make up 25% of plastic bottles used in the U.S. Landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. idswater.org
According to The Water Project, it takes 3 liters of water to create 1 liter of bottled water. When one thinks that people are dying of thirst, how can one be O.K. with the waste of water used to make water convenient for those that have clean water available to them when all they need to do is install a water filter and buy a reusable bottle..
With increasing populations and global warming, the problem of available clean water will be more tenuous. Increasing rights over water will not only increase the cost of water, but violent altercations are likely to increase. So, wasting water is not O.K.
The problems with bottled water do not end here. Valuable resources are wasted in the processing and transportation of bottled water. Transporting water is adding to global warming.
I could talk about plastic bags (100 billion a year), but in many ways, it would be redundant, so here are some facts about plastic pollution in our oceans. According to Earth Day, 2018's call to end plastic pollution are several facts that everyone needs to think about.
Approximately eight (8) million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean annually. This is equal to one garbage truck of plastic dumped into the ocean each and every minute in a day or 1440 loads a day. Fishing boats are responsible for dumping large amounts of plastic into the ocean, including nets that harm or drown many sea mammals. Plastic bags have been seen in the deepest depths of our oceans.
Of the 8 million metric tons of plastic thrown overboard, 236,000 tons are microplastics. Microplastics are tiny pieces of broken-down plastic that are smaller than your fingernail. Fish, sea turtles, sea and coastal birds mistake these plastic particles for food. Autopsies of fish and birds show that many of these animals died of starvation–tummies filled with microplastics.
By 2020 it is estimated that 80 million tons of plastics will be thrown into the ocean, and by 2050 it is likely that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. As we're eating, poisoning, and responsible for ocean warming, I think it might be sooner than that.
Five massive floating patches of plastic can be found around the world. Imagine a plastic debris field covering the state of Texas. That is the size of the plastic patch that floats between California and Hawaii. As "there is more plastic than natural prey at the sea surface of the Great Pacific Patch," Sea turtles feeding in this area, for example, "can have up to 74% (dry weight) of their diet composed of ocean plastics." There are many islands that have beaches of plastics, one in particular as the currents push the plastic ashore.
The likelihood that an increase of coral becoming diseased fr0m 4% t0 89% when coming into contact with marine plastic could result in the death of an extremely important ecosystem. The coral reef is home to 25% of marine life.
If you eat fish, you are likely to have eaten plastic microfibers found brown trout, perch, and cisco, for example.
*references to the above information can be found at Earth Day 2018.
There are more extremely negative impacts on the plants, wildlife, and even the human population. The water we drink, the air we breathe, and the ground we walk on are all contaminated with plastic by-products. The damages caused by these contaminants are irreversible. Though a useful product, plastic bottles are made from toxic compounds known to cause illness. And these products take thousands of years to biodegrade. As a result, landfills never stop releasing toxins into the air from all the plastic products we throw away. In landfills, plastic interacts with water and forms hazardous chemicals. For more information, go to Conserve Energy Future.
Burning isn't a solution, for this releases poisonous gases into the atmosphere and may have some deadly consequences. Both humans and other animals may suffer respiratory problems as a result.
In general, according to Conserve Energy Future, recycling plastic adds to many of the problems as doing so adds to pollution problems of plastic too.
So, what do we do? First, reduce buying disposables and replace these with environmentally friendly products whenever possible. Use your voice to let companies know that despite your loving their product, you are no longer willing to use their product or eat their food unless their containers are environmentally friendly. Choose wisely.
Stop using plastic water bottles right now. Buy a reusable bottle and filter your own water. You will save lots of money doing this (a maximum of $0.10 per glass of water vs. $1.00+ for bottled water). It took time to train myself not to leave it behind, but it is doable.
Be aware that many coffee shops used disposable cups often composed of plastic as an insulator. Many shops will fill your container.
Do things like turn off the water while brushing your teeth, save a flush, shorten your showers or fill the tub half full. A little here and a little there add up. And pass the word as difficult as this may be. Be brave, be willing to be a little unpopular by letting people know how important it is to preserve this precious resource. We're doing this for ourselves and for everyone, including all the generations that follow us.
Lastly, since many people around the world have difficulty finding clean water, The Water Project is working with local partners in these water-scarce areas to bring clean, sustainable water supplies to within 1/2 mile of villages in need. Please help them. For more information, go to The Water Project.