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Background

Why does plastic pollution matter?

So, there’s tons of plastic. Why is that such a big deal? Only because it hurts pretty much everyone on the planet. But don’t take our word for it.

Six ways plastic hurts the planet

1. Harming our marine friends

marine life plastics

Many marine animals swallow plastic items or get trapped in them and often die as a result. Around 11.1 billion plastic items are tangled in coral reefs—blocking their oxygen and light and releasing harmful chemicals.

2. Spoiling our soil

Plastic takes its toll on land, too. Plastic from landfills leaks toxins into the soil and water, affecting the health of soil, plants, and soil dwellers performing essential ecosystem services like earthworms. By entering the soil, plastic—you guessed it—finds its way back to us via the crops we eat. Even cows have been known to eat plastic bags. In livestock farms in Nairobi as many as 20 bags per cow have been found inside cow stomachs. Not good either for cows or for humans who eat beef or drink cows milk.

3. Cranking up climate change

Yep, plastic is behind climate change, too. Plastic is made from petroleum and making plastic products accounts for around 8 percent of the world’s oil production. That figure is projected to rise to 20 percent by 2050.

Drilling for oil and processing it into plastic releases greenhouse gases into the environment, which causes global warming and hence contribute to climate change. And wait, there’s more. Even when it’s just sitting around in seawater and sunlight, plastic releases greenhouse gases. Talk about the dangers of sunbathing!

Source: World Economic Forum

4. Blocked drain major pain

We’re still going. Did you know that plastic waste can cause flooding in cities? The thing is, plastic clogs drains and waterways, which is a key cause of urban flooding in many countries such as India and Bangladesh.

5. Sick of plastic!

When plastic bags block sewage systems, this results in stagnant water that provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests. This situation can lead to the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases.

6. Costing the big bucks

Cleaning up after ourselves is expensive. In fact, we spend billions each year dealing with trash. Plastic affects our economies in other ways, too, for example by discouraging tourism. Who wants to go visit places covered in plastic trash?

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How can the world solve plastic pollution

Governments need to create strong policies that encourage a more circular way to design ad produce plastics. They also need to make sure all plastic products are properly labelled so everyone knows what can be recycled and how. They need to encourage and invest in research and innovation for new solutions, and to raise awareness amongst everyone about reducing or cutting out single-use plastics.

Creating a circular economy

circular economy

One of the most important aspects of sustainability is achieving a circular economy.

A circular economy is an alternative to traditional linear way that economies work, in which we make stuff, use it, and dispose of it. In a circular economy, we hang on to and use resources for as long as possible, get the most value out of them, and then find ways to recover and regenerate products and materials.

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