Plastic pollution is such a big problem because it is so big. The amount of plastic that is getting into natural ecosystems is outrageous. When animals start to mix up plastic bits for food, it threatens the life of the animals. The animal cannot digest plastic, and does not gain any nutrition from the plastic. Small amounts of plastic can be contained, and if recycling was ensured, plastics would not be such a huge problem. The problem is the plastics that don’t get recycled and end up in rivers and oceans. The land fill can also not decompose plastics. Plastics photodegrade, which means it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, but never actually leaves.
Plastic is cheap and easy to use to package consumer products, which means that there is a lot of it. Much of it is not recycled, but ends up being thrown in the trash. From there, plastic ends up in land fills, and in the ocean.
Some researchers estimate that up to 5 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean is full of plastic. Not only is this gross, but is terrible for ocean wildlife. We have all heard stories about dolphins and sea turtles being killed by plastic bags, and plastic rings from soda cans.
Because, if they can’t be reused, they end up in landfills, which are often located in marginalized communities (i.e. poor, people of color, etc.) without the facilities to correctly handle the materials. This often means pollutants make their way into water sources or are incinerated–creating air pollution. I actually see the problem as a socio-economic, as well as environmental issue.
In addition, some plastics are harder than others (thermoset plastics are of this type and are labeled with the #6)–they are, therefore, not easily melted and re-used. Whereas, thermoplastics are more heat-sensitive and lend themselves to reshaping.
Plastics that cannot be easily recycled, thereby creating a pollution problem, include:
1. Polystyrene containers (all #6 plastics).
2. Containers previously containing solvents, paint, motor oil.
3. Toothpaste tubes, anything made with rubber, toys, tools & house wares.
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