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Plastic Pollution (by Kawaiiflowergirl )

Plastic pollution is the term for accumulation of plastic in the environment.

There are a lot of different types of plastic, but some of the most common types are called polyethylene and polypropylene. The reason plastic is so so popular is because it is cheap to produce, strong and easy to shape, and it generally lasts for a long while. It is great for products, and nowadays it is hard to imagine a world without plastic. However, because plastic lasts for such a long time, when left in the environment, it takes a very long time to break down. And, sadly, we are generally really good at leaving various plastic items lying around where they don't belong. 

Plastic is usually split into two categories: microplastic and macroplastic
Microplastic is characterised by being smaller than 4,75 mm, while macroplastic is plastic pieces larger than 4,75 mm. 
It is estimated that 92.4% of all plastic particles currently in the ocean is microplastic - meanwhile macroplastic is estimated to make up 85% of the weight.
While microplast is usually macroplast that has been broken down by use or by nature to small particles, microplastic is also sometimes actively created. This type of microplastic is known as microbeads. Microbeads are smaller than 1,5 mm and is used for scrubbing in soaps, toothpaste and cosmetics, since they are cheaper than the 'natural' beads traditionally used. 
Plastic pollution happens when plastic, instead of getting recycled, is thrown out in nature.  
A lot of the plastic thrown out in nature ends up in the oceans. According the UN, the amount is around 8 million tons each year! 80% comes from land-based activity: From industry, waste dumps, tourism, etc, while the remaining 20% comes from activities at sea: Mainly fishing, oil- and gas platforms, and so on. The plastic is then spread by the wind or eaten by birds or other animals and thereby introduced into the food chains. 
However, throwing plastic out with the general trash is not good either: Unfortunately, in many countries, plastic is burned at too low a temperature. When this happens, toxic chemicals are released.

Unlike organic material, plastic takes very long time to decompose. Here are a few examples on how long some common things take to break down if left in the nature:
Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
Disposable diapers: 450 year
Plastic bottle: 450
Fishing line: 600 years.
For comparison, an apple core takes around two weeks to completely decompose. 

The items thrown out in nature are usually macroplastic. Over time, these items break down to microplast; however, no one really knows what happens to microplast, and if it is somehow broken down further or not. This big lack of knowledge is a serious problem considering how much plastic is polluting the nature. 
Microplastic is also released directly into nature. Much suggests a lot comes from washing textiles containing plastic, like fleece. It is also estimated that - in the USA alone - roughly 8 trillion microbeads per day are released directly into waterways. This is enough to cover 300 tennis courts!
8 million tonnes of garbage are discharged into the oceans every year. This amount is
expected to double in the course of the next ten years. To quote what ocean and atmosphere doctor Chris Wilcox said in the 2010's: "To put that in other words, between now and 2028 we will produce as much plastic as we produced [from the 1950s] until now." 
A lot of the plastic pollution, namely 60%, comes from Asia. The economic growth in those countries is relatively new, and they have no no efficient systems for handling rubbish. Therefore, nature is often used as trash cans instead. 
There are 5 ‘areas’ in the ocean that have a very high concentration of plastic. These are known as 'plastic soups' or 'gyres'. They are created because of the currents dragging the plastic together, and the total combined size is estimated to be the same size as the entirety of Africa! 
People sometimes talk about the gyres as if they are huge islands made out of plastic. This isn't actually the case. The plastic flows around, and no-one knows how big the pollution is, or where the plastic ends up. 
Plastic pollution has huge consequences for animals. Especially for marine animals there is a great risk of entanglement, which can lead to serious injury or death. A lot of animals eat the plastic, thinking it is food. More than 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. They cannot digest it, meaning they starve, often to death, as the plastic ruins their digestive systems. 

The fact that animals end up eating so much plastic effects the entire food chain. No-one is really sure if the plastic - or traces of it - is harmful in humans. However, some sea-animals like clams have trouble reproducing because of toxins from plastic, and lowered fertility is becoming an increasing problem for humans as well. The traces from toxins in plastic have also, in some studies, been linked to cancer and birth defects. 
However, no-one really knows the true effects plastic pollution has on humans. Plastic pollution is a big problem in general, but no-one knows to what extent - and that uncertainty is a problem in itself. However, it is known that if everything continues as it has, according to UN, there will be more plastic bits than fish in the oceans by 2050, which is a very scary thought. 
This huge amount of plastic in nature really effects the ecosystems. Besides animals getting trapped in it or choking on it, plastic binds environmentally poisonous oils. When the plastic then is eaten, these poisonous oils become part of the food chain. 
The massive plastic production also has relations to the ongoing climate debate. 5% of the world’s oil is used to produce plastic. Therefore, if more is recycled, that means the need for producing new plastic is lessened. There will therefore be used less oil and there will be fewer carbon-particles released. 
Basically, one of the best ways to minimize plastic pollution is by recycling, as well as minimizing or completely banning single-use plastic. Currently around 50% of plastic produced is only used once!
Beverage containers especially are a huge part of the problem: they make up 40% of the environmental waste - and over 500 million of them are used each year! The Container-Deposit Legislation (CDL) system is a great way to reduce the amount of beverage containers that end up in nature. This system is very widespread, and in its essences works the way that if you hand in a beverage container, you get a bit of money back. As example, thanks to this system, more than 90% of CDL bottles in Denmark are recycled. 
However, even with bottles being recycled, reusable bottles are the way to go, environmentally speaking. 

Generally, try to limit your plastic use and avoid it when it isn’t necessary. Besides plastic bottles, plastic bags very often also ends up in the nature. It is much better to use fabric bags - or at least reuse your plastic bags instead of throwing them out immediately. Some countries have put a small fee on plastic bags instead of stores giving them automatically - in UK, this has reduced the number of bags used with 80%.

The EU made a Plastic Strategy in 2018, stating that all plastic emballage produced in the EU needs to be recycled by 2030. Hopefully, this will succeed. 
The Industry is working on (better) ways to recycle, as well as creating environment-friendly plastic. This type of plastic is known as bioplast. However, as it is created from organic material, some argues that it uses resources that could have otherwise been used for food. 
So, to summarize: plastic isn’t bad in itself and is a great help in so many cases - we just need to treat it properly and recycle it, so it doesn’t end up in places where it really doesn't belong.  

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Comment on the article Plastic Pollution.
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HannahJoz wrote on 24-09 21:17:
HannahJoz wrote:
Cotton buds in England are now paper
We have paper straws at McDonald's.

We have to pay for plastic bags.
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Mely wrote on 24-09 09:42:
Mely wrote:
This is a very intetesting article, its very sad to see how humans are destroying our planet. If we all recycled we've be making a big difference.
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Private wrote on 22-08 06:14:
Cyberpunk wrote:
you can visit Free The Ocean to answer a trivia question once a day, and whether or not you get it right, for every question you answer you remove one piece of plastic from the ocean! 
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VirgoElf wrote on 22-08 03:28:
VirgoElf wrote:
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Private wrote on 21-08 22:55:
Snakkes wrote:
great article and VERY important! <33 
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Private wrote on 20-08 17:31:
Pearlivian wrote:
It's such a good article ! I'm very careful abt recycling and hope everyone will do the same!
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Private wrote on 19-08 15:04:
Hennastii wrote:
this is a very important topic to talk & write about, good work guys! 
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Private wrote on 19-08 14:35:
BloomCissi wrote:
This was a really good read!
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Private wrote on 19-08 02:31:
Chlorine wrote:
Good article! 
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XxAngelaxx wrote on 19-08 02:20:
XxAngelaxx wrote:
save the turtles! 

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