The Problem with Plastic
As of 2020, a third of all states in the US have bans on various forms of plastic. Most of these states have banned single-use plastic bags, like the kind you use when shopping for groceries. Though opinions vary widely on such laws, we can’t deny the simple truth behind them: plastic is bad for the planet. The evidence is everywhere you look, from the landfills brimming with junk to the continent of garbage floating around the Pacific Ocean.
How is Plastic Affecting the Environment?
Plastic waste is found on every continent on earth, even Antarctica, and remote places like Mount Everest. Wherever people go, they carry their plastic trash with them. n some cases, trash accumulates where humans haven’t been, like in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and the Mariana Trench .Plastic is our legacy, whether we like it or not. Research has predicted that plastic will remain in the soil long after humans were there to leave it behind.
Plastic doesn’t just clog up the waterways, it accumulates in the biosphere, too. Plastic can be found in the stomachs of over 90% of the world’s sea birds and over 50% of the turtles. According to the World Economic Forum, by the year 2050, the amount of plastic in our oceans will be greater than the mass of the fish in it. In a quite literal way, plastic is choking the life out of our planet.
Plastic doesn’t break down like natural materials. The pieces of it just get gradually smaller and smaller, until they get lodged inside the zooplankton that feed so many ocean-based species. The chemicals in plastic leach from those pieces and into the bodies of animals far and wide, including us. It gets into the ground, into the water we drink, and the water we use to grow our vegetables. Because of human production of plastic, we will be living with the detritus of our consumption for thousands of years to come.
Making plastic is bad for the environment
Not only is the product of the production of plastic bad for the environment, every step of the production of plastic has some negative complication. As a petroleum-based product, plastic is created from crude oil, which accounts for some of the worst environmental disasters we’ve ever seen, like the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
It’s not just the big catastrophes that challenge our consciences, but the sustained damage of processes like fracking that contribute to the damage we inflict on our planet. The products of fracking--fossil fuels--are turned into resin pellets, which are then used to create much of the single-use plastic. The process of fracking--hydraulic fracturing of shale in order to harvest the fuel inside-- has shown to be a clear and present danger to the natural world, as noted by Greenpeace. It involves a tremendous amount of water that is pumped into the areas of the earth’s fractured crust, poisoning and polluting precious groundwater.
All is not lost
While laws that address the plastic problem are heading in the right direction, the real change will come from consistent, sustained action on the part of users and manufacturers. As long as we continue to reach for alternatives, and hold our manufacturers accountable for the products they create, we can begin to make a difference. We may never be completely rid of plastic, but we can use alternatives, like Zume’s molded fiber, to build a cleaner future for our grandchildren.
Check out this blog post for even more alternatives to plastic.