Our modern lives offer us many conveniences that we take for granted that have become part of our daily lives. But more often then not, these conveniences have a price, not monetarily initially, but a price on our environment.
The production of plastic products has contributed greatly to these conveniences and the use of plastic in the past 50 years has infiltrated our day–to-day lives in just about every way. The material is lightweight, convenient and easily molded into any shape necessary.
But the disposing of it is another matter. If not disposed of properly, plastic will cause a heavy burden on the environment and especially the world’s oceans.
There recently was a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that estimated by the year 2050 there would be more discarded plastic in the world’s oceans than fish. Although there are plastic recycle programs in place, the foundation has found that 32 percent of plastic packaging bypasses these recycle efforts and wind up in waterways and eventually migrate into the oceans.
Developed countries are aware of their industrial pollution and have taken measures to combat the assault of their industrial waste on the environment. But it has been found that the underdeveloped countries have, if any, ineffective waste systems that contribute to the plastic waste pollution of our oceans.
Since 50 years ago plastic production has increased 20 fold, according to the report, and is expected to triple by 2050. The report notes that 86 percent of plastics are used only once thus adding to the plastic waste problem and increased carbon emissions to produce more.
The decomposition of plastic in the ocean takes form of microplastics, that is, beads and fiber fragments that eventually cover the ocean floor and are ingested by fish that think the fragments are food. This now becomes part of the food chain that can affect human fish consumption.
The foundation urges that the plastic industry start developing products that are reusable and more easily recycled with less toxic petrochemical materials. But the burden also lies on the lesser developed countries to retrofit their waste management programs and make them more accessible to future developed plastic products that can be more environmentally compatible.