On January 21, 2018 I felt like our planet was choking, choking on plastic. I was walking along Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia and could barely see the sand. The whole beach was covered in plastic: bottles, yoghurt cups, straws, bags, and so on (cf. picture). This experience made me wondered how plastic waste impacts the environment and I decided to share my insights below.
Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia, 21/01/2018
Did you know that on a global scale, people use about one million single-use plastic bags per minute?[i] This means that in the time it will take you to read this blog post, approximately three million plastic bags will be used. Plastic, especially these single-use bags, is the number one type of trash found in oceans.[ii] In fact, there are several patches of plastic waste, including microplastics, in the sea. The largest one is estimated to be of a size greater than Mexico.[iii]
The impact of plastic in the ocean is far reaching. First, marine animals often get physically hurt by pieces of plastic. Here you can find an example of a turtle being saved that really touched my heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wH878t78bw
Second, fish often ingest plastic which not only negatively impacts their health, but directly feeds into our food chain. The decomposition of plastic takes up to centuries. It breaks down into smaller and smaller, sometimes even toxic, pieces.[iv] Nowadays, there is tons of microplastic in the ocean and marine animals frequently die of intoxication. The consumption of plastic by humans is directly linked to immune system problems as well as other issues as shown by Our Seas Our Future.[v]
Third, plastic pieces hinder algae and plankton from converting carbon dioxide into oxygen by restricting the light that reaches them. Since marine plants produce about 70%[vi] of the air we breathe, this interference exacerbates climate change and is tremendously harmful to our planet.
In summary, plastic waste has an extremely negative impact on the environment as well as on society. It is time to make a change. At the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi almost 200 countries committed to stop plastic pollution.[vii] Do you want to know how you can contribute to making this change? In our next post, we will provide ideas on how to reduce your individual plastic waste footprint.
SE | CEMS Club St. Gallen
[ii] National Geographic, n.d. | https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
[vi] National Geographic, n.d. | https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/save-the-plankton-breathe-freely/