Stop using plastic products
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Plastic pollution has become a worldwide crisis, now one of the most pressing environmental issues harming human and animal health. Plastic trash is beginning to literally overwhelm the earth’s oceans and rivers it has prompted the United Nations to start negotiating a treaty on plastic pollution.

In spite of this crisis, most of the population has remained impervious to it. Walk into most restaurants and stores and you will find plastic products all over. This is true in almost every home and school in this country. What are the harmful effects of plastic pollution? Laura Parker, a freelance writer specializing on covering climate change and marine environments, wrote:

“Millions of animals are killed by plastic every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. 

“Most of deaths to animals are caused by entanglement or starvation. Seals, whales, turtles and other animals are strangled by abandoned fishing gear or discarded six-pack rings. Microplastics have been found in more than 100 aquatic species including fish, shrimp and mussels designed for our dinner plates. In many cases, these tiny bits pass through the digestive system and are expelled without consequence. But plastics have also been found to have blocked digestive tracts or pierced organs, causing death. Stomachs so packed with plastics reduce the urge to eat, causing starvation. 

“Plastics have been consumed by land- based animals including elephants, hyenas, tigers, camels, cattle and other large mammals, in some cases causing death.

“Tests have also confirmed liver and cell damage and disruption to reproductive systems, prompting some species, such as oysters, to produce fewer eggs. “

The first plastic material, Bakelite, was invented in 1907. In just 65 years, plastic production increased almost 200 times, resulting in about 6.3 billion  metric tons of plastic waste today. Plastic was the “miracle material.”  Plastics are used in thousands of products because they are strong, lightweight and moldable; and therefore, add comfort, convenience and safety to our everyday lives.

This convenience, however, led to a throwaway culture that has led to this environmental crisis. An estimated 40 to 50 percent of plastic produced today are single use plastics. Coffee stirrers are used only a few seconds; straws last for a few minutes, plastic bags and food wrappers may last for a few hours. Then all these products are thrown away. But plastics can last for hundreds of years. A plastic product is thrown away after being used for a few seconds, minutes or hours, yet they may persist in the environment in the form of microplastics for as much as 400 years.

Here are some facts from a National Geographic article:

• Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been manufactured in the last 15 years.

• Production increased exponentially from 2.3 million tons to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.

• Every year about eight million tons of plastic waste escape into the oceans from coastal nations and this is increasing.

• Additives in plastics make them stronger and durable which extend their life to at least 400 years to break down.

• Most of the plastic trash in the oceans is carried to sea by major rivers.

• Once at sea, much of the plastic trash remains in coastal waters; but, once caught up in ocean current, it can be transported around the world. 

• Once at sea, sunlight, wind and wave action break down plastic waste into small particles often less than one-fifth of an inch across called microplastics ( or smaller) and have been found all over the world from Mt. Everest to the Mariana Trench to municipal drinking water systems to drifting through the air.

Several organizations have given proposals on how to address the plastic pollution crisis. Some common proposals are the following:

• Stop use of disposable or single use plastics. Around 90 percent of plastic products used every day are used once and then thrown away: plastic wrappers, grocery bags, straws, coffee cup lids and others. Some countries like Ken-ya, France, New Zealand and Canada are phasing out single use plastic products. As individuals we can stop using these products.

• Avoid using water in plastic bottles. Carry a reusable water bottle or turn to companies selling reusable water bottles.

• Recycle! Recycle ! Recycle! Only 12-14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Despite all the hype, most households still do not find it “convenient” to recycle. 

• Boycott microbeads. Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products – facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes – might look harmless but their tiny size allows them to slip through water treatment plants. They look like food to some marine animals with deadly consequences. Opt for products with natural exfoliants like oatmeal and salt.

• Support organizations that are fighting plastic pollution. 

• Put pressure on manufacturers, restaurants and stores to stop using plastic products especially single use plastics. 

• Support legislation like Senate Bill 40 filed by Senator Francis Pangilinan titled “Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Act of 2019” which seeks to ban the importation, manufacture and use of single use plastics.

The war against plastic pollution is a war the world cannot afford to lose. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Aug. 17 (1:30 pm-3 pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

GLOBAL WARMING PLASTIC POLLUTION
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