On May 2017, a dead whale appeared on the shores of Cavite. Upon closer inspection, the whale turned out to be installation art made entirely out of plastic. Greenpeace made it look like a beached humpback whale filled with plastic bags. In collaboration with an ad agency, the organization made the ‘whale’ to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic. As consumers, we are generally unaware of the cost of using plastic. It takes a toll on our environment.
Consumer Behavior and the Environment
According to ConservingNow.com, people use a plastic for only 12 minutes on average before throwing it away. Furthermore, the production of plastic bags burns finite sources like coal, crude oil, and petroleum. All of which are materials which we cannot reuse.
To top it off, plastic bags take 1,000 years to decompose and they don’t fully decompose either. Instead of breaking down like other materials, plastic photodegrades. This means plastic ‘decomposes’ into little pieces, turning into more pollution.
The Effect of Plastic on Marine Life
We often see plastic bags just floating around in the wind. Do you ever wonder where these bags land? These bags often end up in the ocean, which contains most of our plastic waste. Our oceans contain most of our waste as most garbage ends up in different bodies of water, affecting our marine life. Marine animals get tangled and most of the time, ingest plastic materials.
Even ‘decomposed’ plastic bags affect marine life. Fish mainly feed on plankton and they confuse these tiny bits of plastic as food. Other marine animals feed on jellyfish and mistake plastic bags for their prey. This messes up the entire food chain. Planktons ingest plastic microfiber and are then eaten by fish. Humans also suffer the risk of consuming plastic. Plastic microfibers produce toxins like lead and mercury in fish. Decomposing plastic inside animals also release toxins that affect the animals’ hormones and reproductive systems.
According to the American Chemical Society, decomposing plastic also releases toxic chemicals into the ocean. These chemicals compounds include Bisphenol A or BPA which can be found in most plastics and cans. This chemical compound heightens the risk of prostate cancer and obesity and causes weakened immune function, especially in children. Plastics release BPA into the ocean. Marine animals then consume this toxin, allowing it to enter the food chain.
Plastic Bags and Land Pollution
Mountains of plastic waste litter our landfills. This material can potentially leak the same toxic chemicals into our soil, contaminating the groundwater found in the soil. Groundwater continuously flows into bodies of water like rivers. BPA also makes soil infertile.
Getting rid of plastic isn’t easy either. Burning plastic bags produces a compound called dioxin which causes cancer, and may affect the reproductive system and the immune system.
What You Can Do
In light of these, some have made efforts in diminishing our plastic bag usage. For example, some cities like Pasig City and Makati City have banned the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail stores. Other efforts include using glass instead of plastic containers and the use of recyclable materials instead of plastic.
We can prevent most of the pollution in our environment. Since it is International Plastic Bag-Free Day on July 3 take the green path and use an eco-friendly bag to help reduce plastic usage. And while you’re at it, why not take it a step further by reducing your use of plastic materials? Bring your own refillable bottle instead of buying bottled water. Use metal straws instead of plastic ones. Instead of using plastic containers to store food, use reusable storage containers.
Through simple efforts, we can contribute to reducing the collective harm being brought to the environment.
Editor’s Note: This article was written by Julianne Angeles who is currently taking an internship under the OLX Marketing Team.