Is Plastic Debris Part of Our Sustainable Future?

After doing some research for our upcoming packaging and its design, I came across an article that focuses on the devastating environmental impact of plastic debris. To my surprise, there is a lot that I was not aware of. “Plastics are lightweight, strong, durable and cheap, characteristics that make them suitable for the manufacture of a very wide range of products. These same properties happen to be the reasons why plastics are a serious hazard to the environment" (i.e. Derriak, 2002). As I continued reading the article, I realized that our current social and political structures are not doing enough to help our global economy recognize this issue, and hopefully, bring some permanent awareness and change.

According to scientific research, plastic debris “affects at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species” not to mention all of the undocumented animal deaths that surpass science (i.e. Derriak, 2002). The article indicates that high density cities and merchant sea ships are highly responsible for their careless contribution to this current global debris crisis, which has even reached our sea floors. “The accumulation of such debris can inhibit the gas exchange between the overlying waters and the pore waters of the sediments, and the resulting hypoxia or anoxia in the benthos can interfere with the normal ecosystem functioning, and alter the make-up of life on the sea floor (i.e. Derriak, 2002). Not only is the debris affecting our land, water and animal life, but there is strong evidence that suggests that the plastic debris crisis is much bigger and deeper than we may think.

Our global manufacturing world has used petroleum based plastics for decades, causing troubling and toxic environmental consequences. “Over the past 20 years polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have increasingly polluted marine food webs, and are prevalent in seabirds. Though their adverse effects may not always be apparent, PCB’s lead to reproductive disorders or death, they increase risk of disease and alter hormone levels (i.e. Derriak, 2002). What a frightening feeling to finally understand the depth of this global catastrophe. Our modern social structures are experiencing record high plastic debris pollution, our marine animals are ingesting the plastic materials and a large number are being entangled, not to mention the toxins that are being absorbed into the animal life/ecosystems, and eventually ingested by humans.

To better our current global conditions, and help build a future our children would be proud of; we must start on the individual level and expand into our local and global community. “Ultimately, all sectors should take their individual steps. Thinking globally and acting locally is a fundamental attitude to reduce such an environmental threat. A combination of legislation and the enhancement of ecological consciousness through education is likely to be the best way to solve such environmental problems" (i.e. Derriak, 2002). Understanding the deep impact of plastic debris, and its negative distress on the global ecosystem, is a great start. Making small changes on the individual level, will add up to a collective betterment, and result in a healthier and more sustainable future for us all. “The general public and the scientific community have also the responsibility of ensuring that governments and business change their attitude towards the problem” (i.e. Derriak, 2002). Which brings me to my last point; we must encourage our community, government and businesses to start making a difference that will result in a healthy and sustainable future.

Thank you for being a part of sustainable living!

Work Cited:

Derraik, José GB. "The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: A Review." Marine Pollution Bulletin 44.9 (2002): 842-52. The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: A Review. Web. 25 July 2014.

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