Look around you right now. I am willing to be that you can spot AT LEAST 10 items around in arms reach of you that are made of plastic. Just take a second and count all of the little items and disposable pieces of equipment that are lying around your room, on your desk, in your kitchen. Everywhere. How many of those items are you going to be keeping for the rest of your life? The next 5 years? The next 20 minutes?
Today plastics are everywhere. From the computer you are on right now to the components of your car, to the grocery bags you obtain from the stores, they just seem to make our lives more convenient. Living in today’s modern world, it is almost impossible to even think about life without it. Imagine not having anything made of plastic? WTF? Really? It even boggles my mind trying to comprehend the world without it.
While it seems almost impossible to do, the fact is that humans as a species are choking themselves with the very product designed to make their lives easier. On a larger scale than you can probably even picture in your head, we are saturating the planet one disposable floss container, bottle cap, prescription drug container, bag, phone, lighter, and toothbrush at a time.
The given Scale
It’s difficult to even wrap your mind around how throwing away a few plastic items a day can be harmful in any sense, well picture this. Pretend the average United States citizen throws away only two plastic products in the trash per day (This is probably a vast understatement on average). As of 2012, the population in the United States was roughly 313.9 million people and rising. Those two plastic components that were thrown out by every single person quickly becomes staggering. There are now 607.8 million small pieces of plastic tossed away into the trash to be discarded and forgotten on a daily basis. Now, imagine that this happens on a daily basis for only ONE year. This number of items disposed of into the trash becomes greater than 221 billion pieces of disposed plastic from American homes.
While these numbers may seem staggering in themselves, they don’t even begin to scratch the surface. This is only assuming 2 end point items disposed of…..Which is a joke if you think about it. This only includes the products that make it into YOUR home. We didn’t even take into consideration the plastic packaging they came in, the grocery bags they were carried home in, the plastic products they were shipped in, or the plastic garbage bag you threw them out in. This is also only taking into consideration one single person, from one single house, from one single neighborhood, from one single city, from one single state, from one single country, in one single part of the world.
Believe it or not America, you are not the only country on this planet. Isn’t that just crazy to think about? (Sarcasm intended) The theoretical 221 billion yearly pieces of plastic seemingly forgotten and blindly tossed away by the American people is nothing when placed onto a worldly scale. China alone has roughly 4 times the population of the United States. Imagine what the world disposes of. It’s even more of a mind boggle (not choice word) to think about the fact that each and every single piece of plastic that you throw out into the trash will still be lingering in a landfill or floating aimlessly in our oceans LONG after your time on this planet is through. I know every person has a desire to leave his/her mark on this world, but plastic pollution isn’t a way to go about doing it.
Where does this plastic end up?
While “proper disposal” may happen in your community and your neighborhood, there are countless countries out there which do not have disposal techniques or adequate means of recycling/waste reduction. People from the west tend to criticize these countries on their practices because they lack the general infrastructure needed in order to maintain programs like this, but in reality the west is to blame. The western cultures are the fundamental drivers in supporting these countries to produce cheap plastic products at staggering and almost cost free rates. So where is the “proper disposal” method taking our plastic, and where is the plastic going that doesn’t have access to curbside pickup?
The plastic that doesn’t simply get buried into the same soil which produces your food usually ends up simply being tossed into the waterways……which funny enough… produces your food. Through these waterways a majority of the plastics can and will eventually find their ways into the oceans where they will then be circulated around the world.
Plastic in My stomach?
Many people simply hold the mentality, “out of sight out of mind”. This couldn’t be further from the truth when you think about it though. The truth of the matter is that when it comes to plastic pollution, just because is it out of sight doesn’t mean it’s not finding its way into your own stomach.
Since we are clogging every single water way and ocean with countless pieces of plastic, it is inevitable that other species are stumbling onto this pollution as well. The smallest pieces of plastic floating passively in the oceans are taken up by smaller fish which remain low on the food chain. As the rule of the world continues, smaller fish are then eaten by bigger and bigger fish. As this cycle continues to move forward and large fish consume multiple prey, the levels of plastic pollution begins to bio accumulate moving up the food chain into the trophic level predator. These levels can be driven up to harmful and almost toxic levels given the correct circumstances.
Now guess for a second who generally consumes trophic predators along with basically every other level species out there that they can get their hands on? That’s right…… Humans. When they say that everything is connected and that the ecosystem is held in balance, I guess it held some truth to it. You are consuming the very trash that you are tossing into your garbage.
Is there an ending?
What really is the solution though? Is the human species destined to choke itself to death? I even said it myself that I couldn’t picture the world without plastic products. Being an advocate for clean and green policy, it saddens me to see a world rapidly spiraling downward at an increasing rate. It seems that the demand for money and the production of cheap, disposable consumer products is going to outweigh logic and long term sustainability for as long as I can foresee. It seems that spreading awareness doesn’t seem to be enough. Being led by the desire for wealth or simply a follower of sheer ignorance, the sheepish mentality of human logic seems beyond self-mutilating. A species in fear of its own potential and smothered by its own discoveries, are we truly looking out for the generations to come? Do we have the ability to see that the problem at hand is far greater than you and I?
- Only when the last tree has been cut down; only when the last river has been poisoned; only when the last fish has been caught; only then will you find that money cannot be eaten. -