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Why is plastic so harmful?

We know it has been in the news a lot recently about the damage plastics are doing to the Earth and how it is almost becoming a plastic planet. Plastic has become a huge part of our day to day lives and we may not even be fully aware of how much we use plastics and waste a lot of it. Here we discuss the reasons why plastics are so bad for our environment and what steps we can take on an individual level to try and help.

Reason 1: They take a LONG time to decompose
This is one of the main reasons why plastics are so damaging to our environment. Plastic products vary in how long they take to decompose and the length of time in a lot of cases is shocking. Here are a few examples of typical household items and how long they take to completely biodegrade:
  • Toilet Roll - A month
  • Cardboard - 2 months
  • Plastic Bag - 10-20 years
  • Styrofoam cup - Approximately 50 years
  • Aluminium can - 200 years
  • Plastic Bottle - 450 years
  • A nappy - 450 years
  • Plastic Straws - Up to 200 years
  • Plastic Cutlery – 100-1000 years
  • Some plastics - Never
Because plastic is extremely strong it is a desirable product but it is also one that’s difficult to destroy. Because they take so long to decompose, people have tried to suggest alternatives such as burning the plastic, however doing this would produce a lot of harmful pollutants which will have an even worse effect on the environment.

Reason 2: They are cheap
As consumers, we are very strongly driven by price, so when we see something that is both practical and cheap, we are tempted to buy it. A lot of plastic items however are very cheap to buy and cheap for the manufacturers to produce. Changing packaging to something that is fully biodegradable can be a lot more expensive, which is why some manufacturers are put off.

Reason 3: They are not made sustainably
Plastic is manufactured by using coal and crude oil which are both unsustainable sources. We have a limited supply of these materials which is another reason why we shouldn’t be using them all up by making plastics.

Reason 4: They are only being used once
Single use plastics are a main area of concern as the amount of waste they produce is off the scale. People are using the plastics sometimes for a day, hours, if not minutes before they are getting thrown away.

Reason 5: They kill animals
It is horrific to see the impact plastics can have on animals. There is loads of plastic waste entering our oceans each day which is severely affecting marine wildlife like turtles, seals and whales. Some animals are being caught up in the plastics, whereas others are eating the plastic and choking. It is affecting all types of wildlife as well. Even smaller organisms such as plankton are being affected as they are consuming microplastics which are barely visible. 

Reason 6: Humans are eating plastic
Without us even realising, there is a good chance we are consuming traces of plastic fibres and microplastics. In fact, one study suggests that humans can actually be eating the equivalent amount of plastic as a credit card each week! This is a scary thought to consider, however people are unsure of all the details yet.

What can we do?
Although a lot of damage has been caused, we can still carry out some changes to our daily lives to try and reduce the amount of plastic that we use:
  • ALWAYS re use your plastic bags if you go shopping rather than buying new ones
  • Use paper straws instead of plastic ones
  • Be conscious of the products you buy and what packaging they are in. Try and choose items that are packaged in a biodegradable alternative whenever possible
  • Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles instead of buying disposable
  • Try and get involved in beach clean-ups or other events specifically set up to help clean up the plastics
  • Use correct waste disposal. Separate your waste as efficiently as possible to increase the amount of stuff that will get recycled.
To find out more about how we can help with your waste disposal needs, please contact us on 0800 083 7807 or visit our website for further information.

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