The Obvious Case of Plastic Pollution

by emmafox14 on November 6, 2017 - 12:40pm

One of the main global environmental issues arising out of the modern world is plastic. According to an article written by Matthew Taylor for The Guardian, called Plastic Pollution Risks 'Near Permanent Contamination of Natural Environment’, a recent study showed the total amount of plastic produced as of this year is equivalent in weight to one billion elephants, and it will last for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. This study, led by Roland Geyer, U.S. Academic, found that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number is expected to jump another 20% by 2021.  This article outlines new findings regarding plastic production and waste distribution, stating that there is now solid evidence to show just how far plastic waste is pushing us towards environmental degradation. I already have prior knowledge of plastic waste issues, so this article just further added to my belief that we are faced with a great global issue right now. I was satisfied with the fact that more evidence has become prevalent for the extremity of plastic pollution, and I am hoping to see more change come about from a regulatory aspect.

However, several boundaries arise when it comes to solving the issue of plastic waste. This article outlines the proof of plastics being prominent globally on remote shorelines, and many know of the pacific garbage patch and the effects it has had on marine life. However, when it comes to human health, the effects are uncertain. According to the article, “experts warn that some of [the plastic] is already finding its way into the human food chain.” However, certainty of the effects of plastic in the food chain are variable. In addition, the effects on terrestrial organisms is much less known. Geyer suspects there is something equivalent or worse going on, however again it is uncertain. Science, both social and natural, is a key element in resource management. Uncertainty in science means the science is not to be trusted or used. This uncertainty can be debilitating as we tend to want certainty before acting, but decisions need to be made anyhow, so plastics will most likely continue to be used at a growing rate.

In addition, if a country wants to alter the way water is dispersed, there are several factors to consider. In the logics of state resources management, there are two points I would like to focus on: One being that the state wants to obtain income for the state and for elites, two being that the state has a goal of maintaining employment for a population, helping to maintain stability. These two goals can stand in the way of reducing plastic waste because the companies who produce the plastic employ a large portion of society. This makes it difficult for the government to place environmental concerns in the forefront of their agenda as the economy may struggle because of it, and their support from citizens could fall greatly.

The last point I am going to address regards the social discourse around plastic – particularly around plastic water bottles. There is a social norm around efficiency and stigmas of tap water. Buying a water bottle is seen as efficient and cleaner than filling up a reusable water bottle from a tap. For these ideals to change, the state needs to alter the norm and educate every community. Government prevention can only go so far in altering norms – media and education have already been prominent in the water bottle movement, but things cannot change unless the public discourse final takes a turn for the better.

Link to article: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/19/plastic-pollution-risks-near-permanent-contamination-of-natural-environment

Comments

This is an interesting and well-written article that outlines many points regarding the major issue of plastic pollution. You have done a great job of giving a solid overview of said issue. However, you state that people would rather buy a new water bottle than using a reusable one. Indeed, it is true that people still go around buying new bottles and throwing them away when empty, but there are also more and more people with reusable water bottle. Despite the “social norm of efficiency” it is important to note that this way of thinking is already changing. We can also note reusable bags for grocery stores that have made the use of plastic bags decline since costumers have to pay for plastic bags now.

I have also found an article by the American Chemical Society which states that most of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from rivers whose water eventually will fall in oceans. In fact, some scientists led a research and found out that 10 rivers around the world are responsible for 88% to 95% of the total amount of plastic in the oceans. The article states that it would be impossible to clean up all the oceans. However, starting by cleaning some of the major rivers who spill into the ocean it would be possible to reduce the amount of plastic or general waste in the ocean. Indeed, doing such would reduce by 45% the contribution of rivers to plastic waste in oceans.

Source:
American Chemical Society. "Better managing plastic waste in a handful of rivers could stem plastics in the ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2017. .