Plastics pollution can create problems for humans as well as wildlife, plants, waterways and other aspects of our natural world. The increased use of plastics can encourage the expansion of petrochemical production. And the proliferation of single-use plastics is increasingly clogging our landfills.
The problems associated with plastics are becoming more chronic. People already understand the issues with containers and other litter in waterways. However our waterways are increasingly being affected by microplastic fragments as well- plastics that do not completely break down, and are starting to affect the food chain within our waterways. Land-based plastics also continue to be a hazard for wildlife as well.
More recently, plastics and other single-use wastes are becoming an increasing problem for cities and their landfill and recycling operations. Fewer countries are willing to take US trash, and it is often un-economical for cities to send their trash to other regions. Meanwhile, local landfills are reaching capacity and recycling is only able to handle a fraction of the waste stream.
According to a recent article by National Geographic:
Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them. Plastic pollution is most visible in developing Asian and African nations, where garbage collection systems are often inefficient or nonexistent. But the developed world, especially in countries with low recycling rates, also has trouble properly collecting discarded plastics. Plastic trash has become so ubiquitous it has prompted efforts to write a global treaty negotiated by the United Nations.
- Single-use plastics account for 40% of the plastics produced every year.
- Half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 15 years.
- Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.
- Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.
- Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible, and durable. But many of these additives can extend the life of products if they become litter, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.
Legislation On Plastics and Plastic Waste
The citizens of Kentucky are becoming more aware of the impact of single-use plastics. During the 2020 legislative session, “plastic ban” bills were filed in both the House (HB81- Marzian) and Senate (SB68- Harper Angel)
These bills as proposed would “Prohibit the intentional release of more than 25 plastic balloons; establishes a ban on plastic, single-use carryout bags by July 1, 2025, and bans single-use plastic straws and Styrofoam food and beverage containers by retail food and beverage establishments by July 1, 2023. ”
More Resources and Articles:
- Kentucky Waterways Alliance on Plastics Pollution and Water
- World Economic Forum profile on plastics and the environment
- United Nations Environment Program- The True Impact of Plastics
- Ecology Center- Adverse Health Effects of Plastics
- Environmental Health News: Report on Plastics
- Ban 2.0 List of Plastics Pollutants
- Article: 7 Ways to Slash Plastics in Cities