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What Makes Plastic So Harmful?

As of 2018, about 380 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide each year. This large amount of plastic waste enters the environment, with studies suggesting that the bodies of 90% of seabirds contain plastic debris. People have been trying to find ways to reduce the free range plastic pollution through reducing plastic consumption, litter cleanup, and promoting plastic recycling.

If we don't start now then some researchers suggest that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by weight.

But what exactly makes plastic so harmful for our environment?

1. Plastic is ubiquitous

Producing plastic is now cheaper than recycling it. Many things are made out of plastic, usually because making them the right shape is easy. Also plastic is very thin, which makes it very lightweight and it takes up less space than alternatives which makes the trasportation extremely easy. Plastic is shatter resistant. Plastic containers do not break when they are dropped or knocked over.

2. Plastics kill more than just people

In the last few months, the effects upon wildlife that come from eating, or becoming entangled in, plastic debris have been reported more widely and more often than ever before, leading to public outcry and protests.

3. Not all plastic is recyclable and not all recyclable plastic is recycled

People are often confused by the terms, “break down” versus “biodegradable” (or “compostable”). When plastics are broken down, this simply means one large piece of plastic is reduced into a bunch of smaller pieces of plastic. These smaller pieces of plastic can be consumed by smaller animals, but are still indigestible.

4. Most plastics last forever

In 1992 a shipping container filled with 28,000 “rubber” duckies was lost after it fell into the sea somewhere between Hong Kong and the United States. Even today, those plastic bath toys still wash ashore from time to time. Plastics survive even the harshest conditions, such as floating around in a marine environment under blistering, unrelenting sunshine or frozen into Arctic ice for years before finally floating away and landing on some faraway shore.

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