This precious planet and shared home we call Earth, and all of its creatures, are depending on us to save it from irreversible destruction. Plastic waste is wreaking havoc on the environment, and one of the ways we can help is by spreading knowledge and creating awareness. Most people don’t even realise plastic is manufactured from fossil fuels which are already depleted or dangerously close to depletion at the rate we are manufacturing and creating demand.
Why is education and awareness so important?
It’s been roughly 60 years since the environmental threat of plastic pollution was first discovered. Scientists first observed plastic debris in the ocean while doing plankton studies, and from then on, many initiatives have been introduced to get people to reduce, reuse and recycle.
However, these initiatives are still hindered by the widespread ignorance of the reality of plastic pollution. Widespread, creative and inclusive plastic pollution education and tools is more important than ever in our fight to overcome what is now the biggest threat to the human and animal species – environmental damage and the global depletion of resources. Workshops, education programmes and school syllabus incorporation all play a role in educating our future generations on how to live sustainably, but the lesson and shifting of habits start with you in your immediate surroundings.
The elemental impact of plastic pollution in nature:
WATER / The Sea
From the very beginning of its life cycle, plastic releases toxins into the environment and endangers the lives of animals. This happens via condensation, seepage and intentional dumping. These toxic releases continue for years because, unfortunately, plastic never goes away, it merely travels and settles with the currents and natural weather phenomena.
Apart from the initial and ongoing toxic emissions during use and disposal, seabirds are choking, sea turtles are being ensnared and whales and fish are being poisoned. With destruction to habitats, the immortality of plastic and our addiction to convenience (further adding fuel to the circular fire), plastic has been guilty of some of the worst aquatic atrocities. Not to mention the disastrous nurdle spills and unseen biohazards it poses to people who consume the very same seafood that ingests harmful microplastics and poor-quality water.
EARTH / The Land
The danger isn’t only at sea and from marine sources and resources. The soil and freshwater on land is also contaminated by the plastic toxins that drain from landfills, negatively affecting terrestrial and river ecosystems for years to come. The production of plastic adds to a bigger problem, global depletion of natural resources, as a significant amount of the world’s oil consumption is used as raw materials in the plastic manufacturing process.
AIR + FIRE / The Air
The alarming reality doesn’t stop there; when plastic is burnt or left in the sun, the air is polluted by the toxins it releases. The byproducts of the plastic manufacturing process are also known to release carcinogenic chemicals into the atmosphere. Poor air (and in turn water quality ) presents further health risks such as stunted or aggressive developmental changes in children, respiratory disease and endocrine dysfunction.
It’s up to us to educate, inform and empower as many people with information and alternatives as possible. If not for the planet, for ourselves! Join our beach clean up events in and around Cape Town, where NGOs, communities, schools and individuals come together to do our bit for our planet. Every little bit counts!