Don’t Be Fooled By Plastic Pollution

Don’t Be Fooled By Plastic Pollution
Rosie Hathaway
West Shore Community College
April 18, 2020

In the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow, the world is impacted by a series of catastrophic weather events as a consequence of global warming. While this may seem like the plot of a crazy science fiction movie, a treacherous planet that has been destroyed by the environmental tracks left by others could soon become a reality. Pollution, deforestation, and neglect are severely destroying our planet. The answer to this destruction lies within environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing the fuel you use, reusing jars or containers, or recycling clothing you do not use. Despite the obvious benefits that seem to come from them, some people claim that they just do not possess the time to make environmentally safe decisions for the planet. Many individuals leave an unfavorable impact on the environment, simply because they do not care enough or they only care about the profit that can be associated with harmful environmental practices. Countless companies get away with polluting our environment just to save a few pennies and gain millions of dollars in profit. There should be more beneficial ways of influencing individuals to be kinder to the planet because of the harmful effects that past generations and carefree corporations have on today’s climate. 

With a small amount of laws in the U.S. concerning pollution, current and future generations are greatly impacted. Generations such as Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation have left an excessive amount of problems behind for other generations to fix. Gen-Xer Bruce Gibney (2018), the Baby Boomer generation was responsible for multiple pollution crises, which led to the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1963. When global issues accumulate into a significant issue, only then do political leaders attempt to make a difference. Greta Thunberg (2019), a 16-year-old Swedish teenager and world renowned environmental activist, states that everyone is promised a great big wonderful life to look forward to, but they are faced with what past generations have left for them. If the planet remains in its current condition, nobody will be able to live a long fulfilling life. Kids who should be living and enjoying their childhood. They should be exploring and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Instead, they are making public speeches about the condition of the planet, hoping for a change so they may have the chance to experience their childhood (p.174). Young adults should not feel obligated to repair the mistakes of the carelessness from the people that came before them in order to experience their childhood. Past generations did not have to feel that way, so it isn’t fair that current generations have to now. As for the older generations, wouldn’t they want to live a long life without having to worry about the consequences of their actions in the past? 

Many traditional companies and corporations such as Walmart and Walgreens use plastic bags. These plastic bags are often tossed around or left behind by careless individuals. “Fast food companies, such as McDonalds and Burger King, use plastic straws that are also subject to be littered by careless individuals. That litter damages ecosystems, and in turn, leads to climate change. Some companies and corporations have switched to using more environmentally safe substitutes, including reusable bags, paper/metal straws, paper to-go containers, bamboo forks, spoons, sporks, knives, and even toothbrushes! There are still companies that choose to and are being allowed to produce environmentally harmful products. These products, in some cases, take years upon years to fully break down, so they remain in landfills for much longer than they are meant to.” (Eartheasy, 2019) These issues will have dire consequences for our home, and this is all simply being brushed to the side and being overlooked. For instance, there are many plastic water bottle brands such as Dasani, Aquafina, Evian and Fiji to name a few. Many of these water bottles are not recycled and just end up in landfills instead. These bottles take years to break down, and they release harmful pollutants that are bad for the environment. As for plastic bags, Americans use 100 billion of them each year – that’s almost one plastic bag per person each day. However, this is only accounting for North America, and this is not taking into account the entire globe. An estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. The plastic bags that billions of shoppers use every day can take anywhere between 10 to 1,000 years to decompose (Environmental Protection Agency). In many cases, these facts get overlooked because of the hidden horrors of plastics companies and corporations are keeping from consumers. In many cases consumers unknowingly encourage unsafe environmental practices by purchasing from said companies. 

 “While companies that are producing plastic that is not recyclable because it is a cheaper alternative than eco-friendly material may be thriving, ecosystems are not. Plastic bags, bottles, and packaging, are a huge contributor to the damage being done to ecosystems everywhere” as brought up in Business Insiders. Not only do these items find themselves into the homes of woodland life, they can manage to make it into landfills or seas as well. Originally, one of the main sources of microplastics were thought to be dispersed throughout the ocean from cosmetic products. From face washes to hair gels to toothpaste, these tiny microplastics would pass through water filters and end up getting mistaken for food by aquatic animals. The microplastics are then ingested by marine animals and can result in fatal illness or even death.

Microplastics in Cosmetics
Microplastics can be found in many cosmetice problems such as this toothpaste.

Many proposed acts have been considered or passed to reduce the issues caused by these microbeads. Most recently, on January 6th , 2015 an act was passed to “prohibit the manufacture and introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of rinse off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads.” This is a hopeful step in the right direction to put a stop to global pollution. 

As brought up by the World Wildlife Fund “This issue is also contributing to the steady decline in wildlife”. With the increasing amount of pollutants affecting habitats, several types of species become endangered. The sizes of many different ecosystems have become smaller because of the rise of deforestation and pollution, the horrifying downfall of species is becoming more apparent across the globe as well. While this happens frequently in land ecosystems, this can also be more apparent in oceans and seas as well. As mentioned by Gray, A CNN reporter “From whales to sea turtles, no matter the size, these creatures are greatly affected by garbage polluting the ecosystem in which they live.” With the help of The National Council of Nonprofits they go on to describe a little more about non-profits, “Many reputable non-profit organizations fight greatly to preserve the habitats of many as well as keeping the planet’s water and air clean. These generous organizations are nonprofit, which means that they are dedicated to advancing a particular social cause but cannot buy stock and usually don’t get invested into”. While this is a large accumulation of volunteer work, their intentions are in the right direction. “They are not earning money, but they are earning a cleaner environment and striving for the sole purpose of their organization. In this case, the organizations listed above emphasize the overall health of the planet and how it is being treated, and undergo campaigns and projects that can better the environment in the long run” (NCON, 2018).  These organizations carry out beach and ocean clean-ups, and raise money to create environmentally friendly infrastructure that can benefit communities, both human and animal alike. 

Sorting through waste may seem like such a rather disgusting chore. People must realize that this chore is the most beneficial! “Recycling eliminates the need to increase, produce, or obtain new raw materials from the Earth” (EPA, 2013.) This would then reduce pollution and the amount of garbage that resides in landfills. Environmentally friendly companies would suggest using reusable shopping bags to lessen the amount and use of plastic, but this is not considering the lengthy distance these eco-friendly purchases take to get to the consumers. As Chockalingam and Isreal (2016) of the SRM Institute of Science and Technology have stated, “By adopting green marketing strategies for personal care and home care products we can decrease the usage of harmful ingredients in product composition such as phosphates, fluoride, lead, arsenic, promote a manufacturing process based on minimal usage of resources, and encourage the usage of biodegradable packing materials” (p.355). By using more beneficial resources for products being sold and reducing the amount of harmful ingredients used to make items it will in turn make the environment a cleaner place to live for a longer amount of time. 

  There must be a better way to resolve the problems Earth is currently and soon to be facing. Finska, L., & Howden, J. G. (2018), educational researchers from the Arctic University of Norway, pointed out that the problem of marine plastic pollution is addressed either specifically or more generally in several different legal takes belonging to environmental law. The Ocean Dumping Act states that pollutants may not be dumped in any national waters, and foreign parties may not use the US as their dumping grounds. Although the global problem of marine plastic pollution cannot be solved by law alone, the legal system, law can make an appreciated and respected contribution by creating a global effort for surveillance that will lead to the reduction of plastic pollution (p. 245–253). To combat waste from large corporations, there should be stricter rules and regulations in regards to how companies go about how they package and produce this enormous issue being caused by their products. The packaging and the products being produced should have a certain requirement, though there are some in place, of waste that come from making and using them.. Along with the chemicals inside of products, the plastic bottles in which they are stored are also not beneficial to the environment. 

An article from Harvard Business Review written from a large selection or authors suggested that “some hygiene companies are more focused on their product’s income and should be tasked with finding better alternatives for their products and packaging.” Fortunately, some companies are doing exactly that, with much success. Dental hygiene company, Hello has made bamboo floss and toothbrushes as well as a plastic free alternative to traditional toothpaste packaging by producing toothpaste tablets that are activated by chewing.

Who Gives a Crap
Who Gives a Crap is one of the many companies who are taking a step in the right direction for the environment

Another eco-friendly company, toilet paper company Who Gives a Crap, is determined to make you give a crap. This company makes its products entirely out of recycled materials. In addition to that, Who Gives a Crap donates 50% of its proceeds to build toilets and to develop sanitation techniques for countries in need, like those in Africa. These companies are just a few in hundreds taking part in the growing revolution for a greener planet. While some companies may think that environmentally friendly decisions are difficult and expensive, these companies show that it really pays off when all is said and done.

 

Being environmentally friendly is a given, being responsible for the products you purchase should be monitored more and should be necessary for all consumers to realise this is an important step for all in the right direction in order to save the environment that is available to its inhabitants. By supporting companies that make environmentally unsafe products we are unknowlingy supporting an unsafe environment that will reflect on our future. Chad Frischmann (2019) a writer for the BBC, said “With stricter laws enforcing and influencing this idea, it is possible for the harsh environmental footprints that have been made by past generations to be reversed by the young, influential people in this generation and generations to come.” When all is said and done, however, battling climate change begins with you. To do your part, you can engage in actively recycling, creating your own compost bin, or even by buying some of the environmentally friendly products that are available. You can buy metal straws or reusable shopping bags, and actually use them on a regular basis. Livia Albeck-Ripka, a journalist for the New York Times, put it best by saying that “if we can all take small steps to reduce one’s environmental footprint simply by cutting down on the plastic being used, reusing and recycling in homes, and even looking closely at the ingredients in products that you purchase in the grocery store, everybody can make a lasting change in the future of the Earth.” It is up to the current individuals on this planet to bring back the future we were promised.

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