Plastic pollution

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Plastic waste at Coco Beach in India.

Plastic pollution involves the accumulation of plastic products in the environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, or humans.[1] Many types and forms of plastic pollution exist. Plastic pollution can adversely affect lands, waterways and oceans. Plastic reduction efforts have occurred in some areas in attempts to reduce plastic consumption and promote plastic recycling. The prominence of plastic pollution is correlated with plastics being inexpensive and durable, which lends to high levels of plastics used by humans.[2]


Plastic pollution in urban area

Plastic pollution occurs in many forms, including but not limited to littering, marine debris (man-made waste that has been released in a lake, sea, ocean, or waterway), plastic particle water pollution, plastic netting and Friendly Floatees. A large percentage of plastic produced each year is used to make single-use, disposable packaging items or products which will get permanently thrown out within one year.[3] Often, consumers of the various types of plastics mainly use them for one purpose and then discard or recycle them.

As per the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2011 plastics constituted over 12% of municipal solid .[4] In the 1960s, plastics constituted less than 1% of municipal solid waste.[4]

Effects on the environment[edit]


Chlorinated plastic can release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or other surrounding water sources.[5] This can cause serious harm to the species that drink this water.

Landfill areas are constantly piled high with many different types of plastics. In these landfills, there are many microorganisms which speed up the biodegradation of plastics. Regarding biodegradable plastics, as they are broken down, methane is released, which is a very powerful greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to global warming.[6] Some occur. r sources.[5]


Nurdles are plastic pellets (a type of microplastic) that are shipped in this form, often in cargo ships, to be used for the creation of plastic products.[7] A significant amount of nurdles are spilled into oceans, and it has been estimated that globally, around 10% of beach litter is nurdles.[7] Plastics in oceans typically degrade within a year, but not entirely, and in the process toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A and polystyrene can leach into waters from some plastics.[8] Polystyrene pieces and nurdles are the most common types of plastic pollution in oceans, and combined with plastic bags and food containers make up the majority of oceanic debris.[9] In 2012, it was estimated that there was approximately 165 million tons of plastic pollution in the world's oceans.[8]

Effects on animals[edit]

Plastic pollution has the potential to poison animals, which can then adversely affect human food supplies.[10][11] Plastic pollution has been described as being highly detrimental to large marine mammals, described in the book Introduction to Marine Biology as posing the "single greatest threat" to them.[12] Some marine species, such as sea turtles, have been found to contain large proportions of plastics in their stomach.[10] When this occurs, the animal typically starves, because the plastic blocks the animal's digestive tract.[10] Marine mammals sometimes become entangled in plastic products such as nets, which can harm or kill them.[10]

Over 260 species, including invertebrates, have been reported to have either ingested plastic or become entangled in the plastic. When a species gets entangled, its movement is seriously reduced, therefore making it very difficult to find food. Being entangled usually results in death or severe lacerations and ulcers.[13][14] It has been estimated that over 400,000 marine mammals perish annually due to plastic pollution in oceans.[10] In 2004, it was estimated that seagulls in the North Sea had an average of thirty pieces of plastic in their stomachs.[15] Marine plastic pollution can even reach to birds that never has been at the sea. Parents can deliver junk food to their nestlings.[16]

Effects on humans[edit]

Plastics contain many different types of chemicals, depending on the type of plastic. The addition of chemicals is the main reason why these plastics have become so multipurpose, however this has problems associated with it. Some of the chemicals used in plastic production have the potential to be absorbed by human beings through skin absorption.[17] A lot is unknown on how severely humans are physically affected by these chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in plastic production can cause dermatitis upon contact with human skin.[17] In many plastics, these toxic chemicals are only used in trace amounts, but significant testing is often required to ensure that the toxic elements are contained within the plastic by inert material or polymer.[17]

It can also affect humans in which it may create an eyesore that interferes with enjoyment of the natural environment.[18] may be a cause of diseases in humans.

Reduction efforts[edit]

Household items made of various types of plastic.

Efforts to reduce the use of plastics and to promote plastic recycling have occurred. Some supermarkets charge their customers for plastic bags, and in some places more efficient reusable or biodegradable materials are being used in place of plastics. Some communities and businesses have put a ban on some commonly used plastic items, such as bottled water and plastic bags.[19]


The two common forms of waste collection include curbside collection and the use of drop-off recycling centers. About 87 percent of the population in the U.S.A. (273 million people) have access to curbside and drop-off recycling centers. In curbside collection, which is available to about 63 percent of the U.S.A. population (193 million people), people place designated plastics in a special bin to be picked up by a public or private hauling company.[20] Most curbside programs collect more than one type of plastic resin; usually both PETE and HDPE.[21] At drop-off recycling centers, which are available to 68 percent of the U.S.A. population (213 million people), people take their recyclables to a centrally located facility.[20] Once collected, the plastics are delivered to a material recovery facility (MRF) or handler for sorting into single-resin streams to increase product value. The sorted plastics are then baled to reduce shipping costs to reclaimers.[21]

There are varying rates of recycling per type of plastic, and in 2011, the overall plastic recycling rate was approximately 8% in the United States.[4] Approximately 2.7 million tons of plastics were recycled in the U.S. in 2011.[4] Some plastics are recycled more than others; in 2011 "29 percent of HDPE bottles and 29 percent of PET bottles and jars were recycled."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Plastic pollution". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  2. ^ Hester, Ronald E.; Harrison, R. M. (editors) (2011). Marine Pollution and Human Health. Royal Society of Chemistry. pp. 84-85. ISBN 184973240X
  3. ^ Hopewell, 2009[page needed]
  4. ^ a b c d e "Plastics". Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Aggarwal,Poonam; (et al.) Interactive Environmental Educatiaon Book VIII. Pitambar Publishing. p. 86. ISBN 8120913736
  6. ^ Biello, David (June 5, 2011). "Are Biodegradeable Plastics Doing More Harm Than Good?". Scientific American. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Knight 2012, p. 11.
  8. ^ a b Knight 2012, p. 12.
  9. ^ Knight 2012, p. 13.
  10. ^ a b c d e Daniel D. Chiras (2004). Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable Future. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 517-518. ISBN 0763735698
  11. ^ Knight 2012, p. 5.
  12. ^ Karleskint, George; (et al.) (2009).Introduction to Marine Biology. Cengage Learning. p. 536. ISBN 0495561975
  13. ^ Rodríguez, B; et al. "Incidence of entanglements with marine debris by northern gannets (Morus bassanus) in the non-breeding grounds". Marine Pollution Bulletin 75: 259–263. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.07.003. 
  14. ^ Derraik, 2002
  15. ^ Hill, Marquita K. (1997). Understanding Environmental Pollution. Cambridge University Press. p. 257. ISBN 1139486403
  16. ^ Rodríguez, A; et al. "High prevalence of parental delivery of plastic debris in Cory’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea)". Marine Pollution Bulletin 64: 2219–2223. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.06.011. 
  17. ^ a b c Brydson, J. A. (1999). Plastics Materials. Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 103-104. ISBN 0750641320
  18. ^ (1973). Polyvinyl Chloride Liquor Bottles: Environmental Impact Statement. United States. Department of the Treasury (contributor).
  19. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (July 8, 2009). "Australian town bans bottled water". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "AF&PA Releases Community Recycling Survey Results". Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  21. ^ a b "Life cycle of a plastic product". Retrieved 3 September 2012. 


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