This past week I watched a fascinating yet alarming episode of history 101 on Netflix about plastics. Their premise was that plastics have transformed how we live, but progress comes at a high price: 7.8 billion tons of waste. They asked the question “ Are plastics a miracle or a catastrophe?”
Fortunately, this past September Coca-Cola, Walmart, and other big multinationals pledged to support the campaign by five of the G7 industrialized nations to ensure that 100 percent of plastics are recyclable by 2030. Finally, governments across the world have started to take action to ban traditional plastics and place levees.
Plastic waste directly kills wildlife as well as having low term negative affect on ecosystems. It is estimated that discarded nets and other fishing gear kill an estimated 136,000 seals dolphins sea lions turtle small whales and other seabirds.
It is estimated that between 5 to 13 metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean from both developing and high income countries. Plastic waste contaminate all major ecosystems on the planet. There is increasing concern about its impact on wildlife and human health.
Micro plastics have been discovered in human stool and plastic components such as BPA have been discovered in our urine. It is estimated that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 micro plastic particles every year. The long term affects all our health have not been definitively proven. Micro plastics entering the human body, however, may lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, or apoptosis. These are associated with a variety of negative health outcomes. These include cancer, heart, gastrointestinal, or neurodegenerative diseases.
Plastic pollution is not just an environmental concern. It is personal.