Plastic is a miracle material. Thanks to plastic, countless lives have been saved in the health sector, the growth of clean energy from wind turbines and solar panels has been greatly facilitated, and safe food storage has been revolutionized. But this wonder technology got a little out of hand.
It has saturated the environment, invaded the animals we eat and now finding its way onto the food chain, into our bodies. The worldwide statistics have shown that plastic pollution is a serious problem that is negatively affecting all countries and our whole planet Earth.
Global plastic production is increasing by millions every year
The first synthetic plastic – Bakelite – was produced in 1907, marking the beginning of the global plastics industry. However, rapid growth in global plastic production was not realized until the 1950s.
Over the next 65 years, annual production of plastics increased nearly 200-fold to 359 million tonnes in 2019. For context, this is roughly equivalent to the mass of two-thirds of the world population.
According to a UN report, every year, the whole world use about 500 billion plastic bottles, more than 500 billion plastic bags. The amount of plastic waste is enough to cover four times the surface area of the Earth, of which 13 million tons of plastic waste goes to the ocean. The use of persistent plastic bags and plastic products, especially disposable plastic items, have left unpredictable consequences for the environment. Unless there is a dramatic change of approach to the global plastics crisis an additional 104 million metric tons of plastic pollution could enter our ecosystems by 2030.
So where does all the plastic waste go?
Over 75% of the plastic ever produced is already waste. More than 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic have become waste since 1907. Only 9% of them all was recycled, 12% burnt, but 79% of it is still sticking around, causing marine and landfill pollution.
Across the world, a staggering three billion people have no access to proper waste management, of which two billion have no access to waste collection. Plastic waste is dumped and often openly burned, resulting in the release of toxic chemicals and increased air pollution. Plastic dumpsite also provide ideal breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes, rats and flies.
The damage being caused by plastic pollution to marine ecosystems and species – and to the livelihoods of people that depend on a healthy ocean – is shocking. Globally, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. So if the current trend continues, the plastic waste will outweigh all the fishes in the ocean by 2050. More than 180 marine species including mammals, birds, fish and invertebrates have been found to have ingested plastic. Many marine animals are dying as a direct result of this pollution. Communities that rely on fisheries and tourism are being affected.
Microplastic – the deadly tiny pieces
An even more concerning form of plastic is Microplastic. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic which come from larger plastics that is constantly exposing to UV radiation. And plastic contains toxic chemicals, which can increase the chance of disease and affect reproduction. 51 trillion such particles float in the ocean where they are easily swallowed by all kinds of marine life: zooplankton, small fishes, oysters, crabs and predatory fish and they all land on our plates.
The world’s movements against the plastic pollution crisis
The good new is the world is waking up to the problem, and governments are starting to act. In the last decade, dozens of national and local governments around the world have adopted policies to reduce the use of disposable plastic. Africa stands out as the continent where the most countries have adopted a total ban on the production and use of plastic bags. Of the 25 African countries that have banned the bags, more than half have done so in the last four years alone. Meanwhile, several countries have some form of deposit-refund system or other return mechanisms for bottles and cans, helping avoid them ending in the ocean. These include Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The UK is currently considering introducing a deposit-refund, which experts estimate could increase the return percentage on bottles and cans by more than 30 percentage points to above 90%. These numbers ’re still on the rise.
Clearly, the harmful process of plastic waste pollution is very large. Because of the convenience in consumption habits, plastic waste has become a problem and a great challenge for the environment in general. Plastic pollution seriously affects the soil, water and aquatic systems, as well impacts the lives of billions of people and precious marine ecosystems and the animals.
According to the UN 2016 Environment Programme’s announcement: “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it. And that means the onus is on us to be far smarter in how we use this miracle material.” The world needs to be using much less plastic, and the plastic we do produce should be valued, reused and recycled as much as possible. It’s incumbent on the producers of plastic products and packaging that bear the most responsibility for plastic pollution to do the most to stop its negative impacts on the environment. More innovation to increase recycling rates is also required.
Each one of us has a key role to participate in solving the problem of the plastic waste pollution. At FUMA, we provide 100% biodegradable and compostable straws as rice straws with no special condition or fine print. Join us with a small action to make great impact on our planet, to make the world a greener, safer and more beautiful place to live and to love.