Top 8 Causes of Plastic Pollution

It’s not much of a statement that the causes of plastic pollution are stirring at us in the face. It cut across every part of our lives and this is because of its multi-purpose.

The amount of garbage produced by people grows in lockstep with the world’s population. Products that can be readily discarded, such as soda cans or water bottles, are ideal for on-the-go lifestyles.

One of the environmental issues that have piqued the interest of many conservationists and governments is the careless disposal of plastic garbage. According to a 2014 World Bank research, municipal solid trash is doubling at an incredible rate, with much of it classified as single-use plastic items.

Plastic is nearly everywhere, and expanding consumption and population expansion are exacerbating the problem of plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is becoming a serious annoyance and a significant threat to the overall environment, resulting in pollution of the land, air, and water.

Because plastics include several hazardous substances, they harm the natural environment and have serious consequences for humans, wildlife, and plants.

Despite this, the accumulation of these products has increased global plastic pollution. Plastic, which is made up of major harmful pollutants, can pollute the air, water, and land, causing substantial harm to the ecosystem.

Bakelite’s development in 1907 ushered in a material revolution by introducing genuinely synthetic plastic resins into global commerce. Plastics have been discovered to be persistent pollutants in numerous environmental niches, from Mount Everest to the bottom of the sea, by the end of the twentieth century.

What is Plastic Pollution?

Plastic pollution is the build-up of synthetic plastic objects and particles in the environment (e.g., plastic bottles, bags, and microbeads) that harm humans, wildlife, and their habitat. Plastics that pollute the environment are classified as micro-, meso-, or macro trash, depending on their size.

Plastics are economical and durable, making them ideal for a variety of applications; as a result, producers prefer to choose plastic over other materials when creating huge quantities of it. Most plastics, on the other hand, have a chemical structure that makes them resistant to many natural breakdown processes, making them slow to decompose.

Plastics have gained increased attention as large-scale pollution, whether they are mistaken for food by animals, flood low-lying areas by clogging drainage systems or just cause substantial aesthetic blight.

Plastic pollution can have an impact on land, rivers, and oceans. Coastal areas are expected to send 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic garbage to the ocean each year. Plastic is a very useful material, but it is also constructed of hazardous compounds that can cause illness, and it is not biodegradable because it is designed to last. Plastic pollution can take several forms, including:

  • Trash accumulation
  • Marine litter accumulation, plastic pieces or microparticles, and non-biodegradable fishing nets continue to capture species and waste.
  • Animals are killed as a result of ingesting plastic objects in waste.
  • The introduction of microplastics and plastic microbeads into cosmetic and body care items

Types of Plastics Pollution

The three primary types of plastic that cause pollution are microplastics, mega- and macroplastics. Both mega- and macro-plastics have been found in footwear, packaging, and other household goods washed ashore or abandoned in landfills.

Remote islands are far more likely to feature fishing-related aspects. These sorts of plastic pollution are referred to as

  • Microplastic Pollution
  • Meso or Macroplastic Pollution

1. Micro Plastic Pollution

Micro debris is defined as plastic bits with a diameter of 2 to 5 mm. Plastic debris that starts as meso- or macro debris can decay and collide, fracturing its food into smaller pieces and resulting in micro debris. The phrase “nurdles” refers to tiny detritus.

Nurdles are recycled and processed to make new plastic objects, however because of their small size, they are released into the atmosphere throughout the production process. These frequently end up in ocean waters after passing through rivers and streams.

Microparticles, such as those found in housekeeping and cosmetic items, are referred to as scrubbers. Because of their small size, filter-feeding organisms frequently ingest micro detritus and scrubbers.

2. Meso or Macro Plastic Pollution

Plastic debris with a diameter of more than 20 mm is classed as macro trash. This can be seen in the use of plastic grocery bags. Macro Debris is a type of debris that is widely found in ocean waters and can affect native animals.

Fishing nets appear to be a major pollutant source. Despite being abandoned, they continue to collect marine animals as well as other plastic detritus. These abandoned nets have grown to reach up to six tonnes in weight, making them impossible to remove from the ocean.

 Top 8 Causes of Plastic Pollution

While it may appear that fixing the problem of plastic pollution is as simple as adopting recycling or cleaning up empty bottles, the truth is that the plastic generating the pollution might be large or small. Today’s causes of plastic pollution include:

  • Plastic is Used Almost Everywhere
  • Urbanization and Population Growth 
  • Plastics are Cheap and Affordable to Manufacture
  • Reckless Cheap
  • Disposing of Plastic and Garbage
  • Slow Decomposition Rate
  • Fishing Net
  • It’s many a time Nature Caused

1. Plastic is Used Almost Everywhere

The fact that plastics are everywhere is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. In today’s society, plastic is the most economical and widely available material. Plastics are inexpensive, simple to produce, and long-lasting. They are also easily discarded. These characteristics are what make plastics such a huge pollution menace.

Plastics are utilized in packaging, household appliances, plastic bottles, straws, plastic paper bags, cans, and so on. They take hundreds of years to degrade whenever they are disposed of, and their continuous presence in the environment causes significant harm. When it is burned, it pollutes the air, when it is disposed of in landfills, it pollutes the land, and when it is poured into water, it pollutes the waters, eventually causing additional secondary effects.

2. Urbanization and Population Growth

Urbanization and population growth are one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Plastic pollution is largely caused by rising urbanization and population growth rates. As the world’s population and cities rise, so does the desire for less expensive and more easily available materials.

For example, because of increased urbanization and rising consumer demands, more plastics were produced in the first decade of this century than at any previous time in history. Plastics make up the majority of landfills in most urban areas, accounting for around 80% of all municipal garbage.

3. Plastics are Cheap and Affordable to Manufacture

The fact that plastics are cheap and affordable to manufacture is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Plastics production has increased in recent decades to meet ever-increasing consumer demands since they are the cheapest and most affordable materials to make.

Plastic has been utilized to produce practically every necessity, including plastic water bottles, cans, straws, plastic paper bags, packing wrappers, carton linings, food containers, lids, and the list goes on. Plastics are inexpensive and easy to make, but they also cause a lot of pollution in the environment.

4. Reckless Disposal

Reckless disposal is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Because of their small weight and short lifespan, plastics are among the most easily discarded materials. Plastic paper bags, wrappers, plastic water bottles, straws, and food containers are just a few examples. These things have a relatively short lifespan.

As a result, most people don’t see the use in preserving the remaining plastic once they’ve obtained the necessary item. After all, we’ll very certainly find another plastic water bottle, straw, food container, or piece of plastic packaging when we go shopping again.

As a result, we dispose of unwanted plastics quickly because we see no reason to save or reuse them. This is the culture that has exacerbated plastic pollution by causing it to end up in dumpsters, on roadsides, or haphazardly abandoned in landfills.

5. Disposing of Plastic and Garbage

Disposing of plastic and garbage is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Plastic waste is frequently mismanaged and ends up in landfills. This may seem perplexing, but plastic is nearly impossible to break down since it is designed to last. Burning plastic is extremely hazardous to the environment and can result in severe infections. As a result, if it’s buried in a landfill, it’ll never stop leaking toxins into the environment.

Even recycling does not reduce plastic use because it effectively recycles existing plastic in a new form. Plastic irritants can be discharged in a variety of ways as a result of the recycling process.

The cycle continues to replicate itself as more plastic things are made every day. This cycle of creating and disposing of plastic will continue until businesses start adopting more environmentally friendly, alternative materials (such as paper).

6. Slow Decomposition Rate

Slow decomposition is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Plastics take hundreds of years to degrade due to their strong chemical connections, which simply prolong their life. Simple plastics, such as those found in supermarkets, require at least 50 years to degrade, whereas more complicated polymers take between 100 and 600 years.

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), every single piece of plastic that has ever been manufactured and disposed of in landfills or dumped in the environment still exists in the United States.

7. Fishing Nets

The use of fishing nets is one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today. Many portions of the world rely on commercial fishing for a living, and millions of people eat fish daily. However, in numerous ways, this industry has contributed to the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. Plastic nets are commonly utilized in certain large-scale trolling activities.

For starters, they spend a lot of time submerged in water, releasing toxins whenever they choose, but they also get broken up or misplaced, and are left to rot wherever they land.

Plastic garbage has often been washed up on the coasts by ships and fishing nets. This not only kills and hurts local species but also pollutes the water since marine animals become entangled in nets and/or ingest harmful particles.

8. It’s many a time Nature Caused

The fact that nature has also played its part as one of the causes of plastic pollution in our world today is not much talked about. Waste is frequently carried by the winds. Very light plastic is blown away by gentle winds and washed into sewers, streams, rivers, and, eventually, the oceans. Natural disasters, such as floods, should also be taken into account as sources of plastic pollution.

Having known some of the causes of plastic pollution, let’s take a look at some of the facts about plastic pollution.

Facts about Plastic Pollution

Some key facts:

  • In the last 15 years, half of all plastics produced have been made.
  • From 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015, production grew at an exponential rate. By 2050, production is predicted to double.
  • Approximately 8 million tons of plastic garbage spill into the oceans each year from coastal countries. That’s the same as dumping five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline on the planet.
  • Plastics contain chemicals that make them stronger, more flexible, and long-lasting. Many of these chemicals, on the other hand, can increase the life of items if they become litter, with some estimations reaching as high as 400 years for decomposition.
  • Packaging accounts for 40% of all plastic produced, which is used once and then wasted.
  • Only around a quarter of all plastic is recycled worldwide.
  • Plastic recycling rates in Europe are the highest, at 30%. The rate in China is 25%. Only 9% of plastic waste in the United States is recycled.
  • Every year, 18 billion pounds of plastic garbage is dumped into the oceans from coastal areas.
  • Since the year 2000, over half of all plastic produced has been made.
  • Every minute, about a million plastic beverage bottles are sold around the world.
  • Approximately 8% of the world’s oil production is utilized to create plastic and power its production. By 2050, that percentage is expected to grow to 20%.

Having known some of the causes of plastic pollution, let’s take a look at some of the effects of plastic pollution.

Effects of Plastic Pollution

Below given are the plastic harmful effects:-

  • Effect of plastic on the environment
  • Effects of plastic on land
  • Effects of plastic on the ocean
  • Effects of plastic on animals
  • Effects of plastic on humans
  • Effects of plastic on marine ecosystems
  • Effects of plastic on food
  • Effects of plastic on tourism
  • Effects of plastic on climate change

1. Effect of Plastic on the Environment

Due to a multitude of factors such as wind and ocean currents, metropolitan regions, shoreline morphology, and trade routes, the dispersion of plastic trash is quite unpredictable. The human population frequently plays a substantial influence in such circumstances.

Plastic is far more likely to be found in enclosed locations, such as the Caribbean. In other aspects, this plastic pollution is chemical contamination. They include substances that can be chemically transmitted to organisms when consumed.

Some of these compounds can accumulate in the body and are potentially harmful. Plastic bags also have an impact on crop growth by interfering with the photosynthesis process in agricultural fields.

2. Effects of Plastic on Land

Plants, cattle, and humans that live off the soil are all threatened by plastic pollution on the land. Land-based plastic concentrations are predicted to be four to twenty-three times higher than those found in the ocean. On land, plastic is significantly more prevalent and concentrated than in the water.

3. Effect of Plastic on the Ocean

The amount of plastic in ocean garbage reaching the seas increases year after year, with the majority of the plastic arriving in fragments smaller than 5 mm. In 2016, global ocean plastic pollution was estimated to be around 150 million tonnes, with that figure anticipated to climb to 250 million tonnes by 2025.

4. Effects on Animals

Plastic pollution can poison animals, which can have a negative influence on the human food supply. The article also mentions how plastic pollution is particularly dangerous to huge marine creatures.

Large levels of plastic were identified in the intestines of certain marine species, including sea turtles. Animals are imprisoned in nets or big debris as a direct result of plastic pollution. It is a major cause of death for marine mammals, turtles, and birds. Ingestion is a second direct effect that affects the entire marine ecosystem’s food chain.

5. Effects on Humans

Plastics have the potential to be hazardous to human health due to the chemical additives employed in their manufacture. Exposure to hazardous chemicals released by plastic can result in cancer, birth deformities, weakened immune, and other health issues. Microplastics have been discovered in tap water, beer, and salt, as well as in all ocean samples taken across the world, including the Arctic.

By releasing gases into the air and water, manufacturing compounds pollute the environment. Bisphenol A (BRA), phthalates, and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) are some of the plastics-related chemicals that are regulated and potentially dangerous.

Although all of these compounds are hazardous, they have been utilized in the production of medical devices, food packaging, flooring materials, perfumes, bottles, and cosmetics, among other things. In excessive dosages, such chemicals are hazardous to humans, destroying the endocrine system. BRA imitates the feminine hormone oestrogen.

6. Effects on Marine Ecosystems 

Ingestion, asphyxia, and entanglement of hundreds of marine species are the most evident effects of plastic trash. Seabirds, whales, fish, and turtles mistake plastic garbage for food, and the majority of them starve to death as their bellies fill with plastic.

They also have lacerations, infections, impaired swimming abilities, and internal traumas. Invasive marine organisms are also transported by floating plastics, posing a hazard to marine biodiversity and the food web.

7. Effects on Food 

Long-term exposure to seawater causes toxic pollutants to build on the surface of the plastic. Plastic waste ingested by marine species enters their digestive systems, where it accumulates over time in the food chain. The transfer of pollutants from marine organisms to humans through seafood eating has been identified as a health issue, and a study is now underway.

8. Effects of Tourism

Plastic trash degrades the aesthetic value of tourist areas, resulting in lower tourism revenue. It also results in significant financial costs associated with site cleaning and maintenance. The accumulation of plastic garbage on beaches can harm a country’s economy, biodiversity, and people’s physical and psychological well-being.

9. Effects on Climate Change

Climate change is exacerbated by the manufacture of plastic. When plastic garbage is burned, carbon dioxide and methane (from landfills) are released into the atmosphere, increasing emissions.

Having known some of the causes of plastic pollution, let’s take a look at some of the solutions to plastic pollution.

Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Some solutions we can consider to be able to minimise plastic pollution having known the causes of plastic pollution. They include

  • Wean yourself off disposable plastics 
  • Stop buying water 
  • Boycott microbeads 
  • Purchase items secondhand
  • Recycle
  • Support a bag tax or ban
  • Buy in bulk
  • Put pressure on manufacturers
  • Educate business
  • Get involved

1. Wean Yourself Off Disposable Plastics.

Grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, and coffee-cup lids are among the 90% of plastic objects in our daily lives that are used once and then discarded. Keep track of how often you use these items and replace them with reusable alternatives. It only takes a few times of taking your bags to the shop, silverware to the workplace, or a travel mug to Starbucks to make it habitual.

2. Stop buying Water

Approximately 20 billion plastic bottles are discarded each year. If you keep a reusable bottle in your luggage, you’ll never have to drink Poland Spring or Evian again. Look for a model with a built-in filter if you’re concerned about the purity of your local tap water.

3. Boycott Microbeads

Those little plastic scrubbers present in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might appear innocuous, but their small size allows them to bypass water treatment plants. Unfortunately, they appear to some marine species to be food. Instead, use treatments that contain natural exfoliants like oatmeal or salt.

4. Purchase Items Secondhand.

New toys and technological devices, in particular, come in a variety of plastic wrapping, ranging from frustratingly difficult-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Look through the shelves of thrift stores, neighbourhood garage sales, and internet classified ads for products that are still usable. You’ll save a few dollars as well.

5. Recycle.

It may seem self-evident, but we’re not doing a particularly good job of it. Plastic packaging, for example, is recycled at a rate of less than 14%. Are you unsure what can and cannot be thrown away? Look at the number on the container’s bottom.

The majority of beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is widely accepted by curbside recycling services. Some locations also accept containers designated #2 (HDPE; often slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic flatware, yoghurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles). Check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory for information particular to your location.

6. Support a Bag Tax or Ban.

Encourage your elected officials to follow the lead of San Francisco, Chicago, and more than 150 other cities and counties by initiating or supporting legislation that will reduce the usage of plastic bags.

7. Buy in Bulk.

Consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you buy frequently and choose the larger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time. Single-serving yoghurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you buy frequently and choose the larger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.

8. Put Pressure on Manufacturers.

Though we may make a difference by changing our habits, corporations have a considerably larger impact. Make your voice heard if you believe a company could do a better job with its packaging. Write a letter, send a tweet, or simply give your money to a more environmentally friendly competitor.

9. Educate Businesses

Consult with local restaurants and businesses about alternative packaging, storage, and bag choices. Many businesses are beginning to provide good low-cost alternatives, such as bamboo utensils in place of plastic utensils.

10. Get Involved

Speak with legislators and get active in government on any level, and you’ll see how many special interest organizations have made us reliant on plastic when we don’t need to be. Encourage the development of products and, when appropriate, offer alternatives.

Top 8 Causes of Plastic Pollution – FAQs

What is the Main Cause of Plastic Pollution?

The primary reason is carelessness. 80 per cent of marine litter is thought to originate on land. Household garbage, which is poorly recycled, thrown in landfills, or left in nature, is the primary source of pollution.

Can Plastic Pollution cause Cancer?

Yes, plastic pollution can cause cancer. Microplastics enter the human body through direct ingestion or inhalation, causing a variety of health effects such as inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis, all of which have been linked to a variety of negative health outcomes such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

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