Picture of plastic pollution collected at de Hoop Nature Reserve in South Africa
My public-speaking speech about plastic pollution at school in 2014:
How plastic pollution affects the environment
Recently I have seen an advert on the Cape Peninsula phone book. It displayed a picture of a plastic duck lying next to a sleeping baby. The advert said: Isn’t it amazing what a little plastic can do. – Indeed, it is amazing what a little and a lot of plastic can do.
Two third of the planet are covered with water. The oceans seam immense, but actually they are not. We have influenced their natural content and ecosystem.
Our seas are being mistreated as rubbish dumps. We are producing more and more rubbish and it is speculated that worldwide 675 tones of rubbish are dumped into the ocean per hour. At least 80 percent of it is plastic.
Therefore the sea is highly polluted with plastic. The specific amount is unknown. Even though experts guess that there are over a hundred million tons of plastic in the ocean. This is eight times more plastic than plankton is in the sea. Plankton -the natural seaweed, which can basically be found anywhere, is exceeded by plastic. It is shocking that plastic exceeds the amount of plankton by eight times.
In highly polluted areas there are up to a million plastic particles per km 2 . They form gigantic garbage patches (e.g. Great pacific garbage patch) which are in total bigger than Europe.
It is important to realize that plastic has not only landed in the ocean when it is thrown into it, but also through wind, rain and rivers. Rubbish and especially light plastic will fly through the air and eventually land in the river or ocean.
Plastic and any rubbish dumped into the oceans can travel extremely far and to totally different points of the world due to the ocean currents. This is why plastic patches are forming in Antarctica and polluting the natural habitat there. The animals and sea creatures suffer immensely under this. They cannot differentiate between food and plastic anymore and swallow plastic pieces or get caught in them. This usually causes to their death and lets them suffer. The plastic pieces in their stomach will not decompose even long after the animals have died. Plastic needs over 1000 years to decompose. This way innocent animals have to die just because we are incapable of managing our own rubbish and use of packaging and plastic.
Plastic is extremely durable and can stay consistent for a very long time. Therefore plastic does not decompose it only crumbles. It crumbles into tiny pieces and micro-plastic is formed which can be extremely toxic. The plastic fibers are microscopic and even the simplest forms of life can eat it. Sea creatures and filter feeders such as mussels consume these micro- plastic fibers.
This is when we humans come into the impact cycle.
When various marine animals are eaten and this micro- plastic can also migrate into the human body and can cause hormonal disruptions. This way plastic particles also enter the food chain. This is a typical case, which reminds us that whatever we will dump into the environment will come back at us. We are part of this life cycle and if we cause unbalance, disaster will hit us in the end.
The difficulty is that almost everything consists out of plastic. This is the case because it is so durable, light, shapeable, firm and cheap. Many everyday objects at least partly consist of plastic or similar synthetic material.
Plastic consist of plasticizers and these can be extremely toxic for us. Many food packages are made of plastic and the plasticizers contaminate the food. Due to the fact that plastic can be found anywhere and in almost everything it can be found in the blood of almost every person. Plasticizers are dangerous as they react similar to hormones and can therefore cause hormonal disruptions. This is especially dangerous to children and teenagers. Plasticizers can also cause cancer, infertility, allergies and heart problems. Therefore, some countries have prohibited certain substances in plastic.
The only solution to this problem is to reduce our use of plastic and plastic packaging of any sort. Neither the cleaning up of our chaos nor the updating of our lifestyle will we easy, but it is our responsibility to do something against it.
As for our oceans no country declared itself responsible for cleaning the world’s oceans, as most of the litter is on international territory. This should not stop us from acting and cleaning up our own rubbish.
Because do remember that everything will come back to us if we do not help to improve something.
Coming back to our plastic duck. Plastic toys contain many plasticizers and consequently, it is very bad for young children. It is important to know that even breathing in next to plastic toy is dangerous and can have impacts on your development and future. Now that we have all seen what a little plastic can do, I hope that you will consider your actions and help to build a better environment.