From grocery bags and containers, to medical devices, plastics are now used in almost every aspect of everyday life, creating a much simpler and safer world. Although plastics carry hundreds of benefits, these do not completely counter the harmful effects that they have on the environment and on the health of humans. The amount of plastic that has been created since 2000 is nearing the total amount that was created in the entire last century, and as this demand increases, so does the knowledge of their environmental costs. Plastics are now known to be laced with chemicals that when consumed by animals can injure them greatly, when buried deep in landfills their harmful chemicals can spread into groundwater, and the bisphenol A (BPA) found in polycarbonate bottles can seep into the food and drinks that they are holding. Despite all of their advantages in simplifying and improving our everyday lives, plastics prove to be extremely harmful and dangerous in the long term.
Plastics have proven to be extremely dangerous for animals. Although plastic manufacturers claim that every additive that is used in them is carefully evaluated, the compounds have been found in numerous bodies of tested animals and there are direct links between these chemicals and their health. The additives affect the reproduction and development in animals as well as their brain functions. Plastic bags also play a huge role in the deaths of marine animals because they are easily mistaken for food. Once they are ingested, they cannot be digested, leading to a slow and painful death. Because they take so long to break down, when an animal dies and decays, they are released back into the ocean to kill more animals. Approximately 100,000 marine animals are killed each year by plastic pollution. Some countries have gone to the lengths of banning plastic bags to protect their wild life. Although they are extremely convenient to consumers, they are a waste of energy and pollution because of their constant use.
Plastics do not only have a negative effect on living things, but they have a harmful effect on the environment as well, with more than one-third of all plastic is packaging and containers that end up in landfills and as litter. Americans discard 33.6 million tons of plastic each year, with only 6.5 percent recycled and 7.7 percent combusted in waste-to-energy facilities. That means the rest ends up in mounds that take up to 1000 years to decompose. Parts of the plastics seep down into the soil and water and eventually get transported to the feeding sites of marine and land animals, which again, puts them at risk. Leaving millions of tons of plastics in landfills is not only an environmental hazard, but is a huge waste of valuable resources as well.
One of the most important concerns about plastics is that around four percent of the world oil production is put into their making and almost the same amount is used to create energy in the process. With a decline in the reserves of fossil fuels and limited space for disposal in landfills, the making and distribution of plastics is not maintainable, especially with over a third of it being discarded quite quickly. If the use of plastics keeps increasing as rapidly as it has in the past, then the amount of fossil fuels needed for their making will increase greatly as well.
Plastics can be found in almost anything now, including in cell phones, computers, medical devices, and cd’s, but the most common use of plastics is in disposables, which end up filling up landfills, decreasing the amounts of available fossil fuels, and killing our animals. Plastic bags are one of the biggest concerns because of the huge numbers of deaths that they have led to. Although American’s believe that they are saving the environment by recycling, many of the plastics can’t be recycled and end up in landfills, where space is limited. Limited space is not the only limitation on them; the limited amount of fossil fuels is as well. The making of plastics accounts for almost eight percent of all of the fossil fuels, which are in very high demand and are in decline. All in all, despite the huge benefits that plastics have brought to the world, they are proven to be extremely harmful to the health of living things and to the environment.
“Advocacy For Animals.” Advocacy For Animals Plastic Bags and Animals Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2013. <http://advocacy.britannica.com/blog/advocacy/2008/12/plastic-bags-and-animals-making-the-wild-safe-for-wildlife/>. IWMA. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan.