Recently, San Francisco has approved a proposed ban “on plastic straws and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals.” The ban not only gets rid of these, but also targets plastic utensils, making restaurants only include them with orders if a customer specifically requests for them. California in general has been focused on decreasing plastic waste since 2014 when it became the first state to ban “single-use plastic bags,” implementing a charge of 10 cents for customers who are in need of such bags. To quote statistics, “60,000 plastic bags” are bought in the United States “every 5 seconds.” As people begin to become aware of the negative effects of plastic waste on our environment, states should follow California in banning plastic containers. For instance, Starbucks has become adamant about the effects of plastic and already has stopped using plastic straws in multiple locations, showing how easily this goal can be reached.
The Impact of Plastic Waste
Worldwide, plastic poses a threat to our environment, and not only affects those in developed countries, but those in underdeveloped ones as well. Frequent flooding in areas such as Bangladesh and Manila can be attributed to blockage by plastic waste, demonstrating how this litter can be the cause of detrimental damages in developing countries. In terms of plastic’s effect on humans, the waste is comprised of toxic chemicals that can mix with “drinking water supplies.”
Though plastic bags often are advertised as recyclable, the green symbol used to indicate recyclability does not always ensure that the litter is reused or recycled. In fact, much of this waste ends up on landfills or is transported to industrial countries that melt the plastic, a practice that is greatly detrimental to one’s health. Plastic bag remnants are also often found in the ocean, where animals are dying after mistakenly ingesting plastic litter. Sea turtles specifically have been largely affected by such litter because they are confusing plastic remnants with jellyfish, one of their main sources of food. Plastic is not digestible, causing marine life deaths among multiple species of animals. Not only do wildlife mistakenly consume plastic litter, but they can also become entangled and thus strangled by this waste.
Amount of Plastic Waste
In the United States alone, “500 million plastic straws” were used every day in 2017, which is “enough straws to circle around the Earth 2.5 times.” In 2015, it was estimated that the global plastic consumption was 297.5 million tons, and as plastic is not biodegradable (it takes plastic up to 200 years to fully decompose), this amount of litter is lingering in our oceans and hurting our environment.
States like California are already addressing the issue of plastic waste, but until we globally tackle this problem, society needs to begin realizing their contributions to plastic consumption. By buying reusable grocery bags rather than utilizing plastic ones, using stainless steel straws, and requesting drinks without straws, people can begin to decrease the amount of plastic waste produced by our society. By being aware of the potential effects of plastic waste, people can work towards helping our environment and protecting marine wildlife against the dangers of plastic litter.
Starbucks has already begun getting rid of plastic straws in certain locations, demonstrating how fast we can work towards reducing plastic consumption. Plastic hurts the environment, and though this has been known for years, it has only just been addressed. The reinforcement of bans against plastic will not only aid wildlife, but will help us as well.
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