The truth about plastic pollution

Plastic bottles: ban single-use plastics | Photo: Creative Commons

The United Nations Environment Assembly is urging worldwide governments to adopt policies that reduce the use of plastics.

The Clean Seas campaign targets the industry to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products and calls on global consumers to change their throwaway habits that will irreversibly damage our marine resources.

In other words, the goal is to say farewell to single-use plastic. But first, we need to understand how plastics became an inescapable nightmare.

The three main types of plastic are:

1: High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE): found in your dry cleaning garment bags;
2. Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE): found in single-use lightweight bags;
3. Linear Low-Density Polyethylene (LLDPE): found in traditional shopping bags;

The most common examples of single-use plastics are bottles, straws, shopping bags, cups, and food packaging.

Although plastic is durable, versatile, and cheap, it degrades slowly. Lightweight bags are eaten by livestock and wildlife, and became one of the most common types of marine litter.

And the horrible truth is that, by 2050, oceans will have more plastic than fish. We can't simply live without making change happen.

Since 1950, the world produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic and 6.3 billion tones of plastic waste. In 2015, the planet generated 322 million tonnes of plastic.

Of all the waste generated in 192 coastal countries, 275 million metric tonnes is made of plastic. Between 60 and 80 percent of litter found in the oceans is plastic.

Plastic cups: adopt reusable containers and help protect the planet | Photo: Creative Commons

But there's more. Ammonium levels increase exponentially on plots covered by bags, and marshland covered by plastic bags has lower oxygen level and less organisms.

Kenya supermarkets hand out 100 million single-use plastic bags. The African country's 30 plastic manufacturing units sell plastic products for a total of $406 million.

In Kenya, 40 percent of cattle that died during the 2017 drought had ingested a significant amount of plastic bags.

So, what can governments and companies do to tackle plastic pollution?

1. Impose a levy on single-use plastic;
2. Ban single-use plastic;
3. Ban plastic cups and cutlery;
4. Biologically source material for plastic cups, cutlery, and plates;
5. Ban microbeads water pollutants;

And, what can consumers do on a daily basis?

1. Use reusable or degradable shopping bags made from starch, corn or potatoes;
2. Buy unpackaged food;
3. Use paper, steel or bamboo straws;
4. Look for alternative packaging like paper;
5. Invest in reusable containers and coffee mugs;
6. Lobby for plastic management strategies and recycling regulation;
7. Pressure companies to use less plastic;
8. Advocate for single-use plastic tax;

Whether you're at home or work, tart reducing the use of plastics now.

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