3 Ways Single Use Plastic is a Major Contributor to Climate Change
Single use plastic is one of the most common and damaging contributors to climate change. The production and disposal of single-use plastic consumes vast amounts of energy and resources, and the chemicals used in its production are major contributors to global warming. Single-use plastic is used for a wide variety of products, from single-use water bottles to plastic bags, straws, and packaging materials. These items are designed to be used once and then discarded, not recycled or reused.
Single use plastic affectst the environment in 3 major ways:
1. the production of plastic uses harmful chemicals
2. their disposal means they can end up in landfills for years
3. our oceans are being damaged from production and disposal of plastic
The Production of Single Use Plastic on the Environment
Single use plastic is a major contributor to climate change for these 3 main reasons. Its production requires a large amount of energy and resources, as well as the use of chemicals such as polypropylene and polyethylene. These chemicals are known to be major contributors to global warming, as they trap heat and cause the atmosphere to warm.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Plastic Degradation
As plastic breaks down in the environment, it releases methane and carbon dioxide, which are both greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. In fact, the degradation of plastic is estimated to contribute around 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. This is equivalent to the emissions produced by 189 coal-fired power plants.
Additionally, when these items are disposed of improperly, they can release harmful chemicals into the air, soil, and water, which can have serious consequences for human health and the environment. Plastic can also take hundreds of years to decompose, meaning it will continue to pollute our environment for centuries
Damaging Our Oceans
Our world’s oceans are suffering from our use and improper disposal of plastic. Plastic pieces can end up in the ocean, where they can be eaten by marine life or break down into microplastics, which can be extremely harmful to ocean life when ingested. And then the harm continues when humans then ingest the ocean life that contain microplastics. Additionally, the production of plastic requires oil, which is extracted from the ocean floor, causing further damage to the environment.
In addition to the direct environmental impacts, single-use plastic also contributes to climate change through indirect means. For example, plastic production requires a large amount of resources, such as water and energy, which can cause further strain on the environment. Additionally, the production of plastic is a major consumer of fossil fuels, and the burning of these fuels contributes to global warming.
Alternatives to Single Use Plastic
The best way to reduce the impact of single use plastic on the environment and climate change is to use alternatives. By reducing our use of these items, we will reduce the production and disposal of them. If people stop using plastic and demanding alternatives, companies will eventually respond. Some options include:
- Reusable bags, water bottles, and straws
- Biodegradable or compostable plastic; bamboo and paper products are becoming widely available
- Paper or cloth bags, or boxes when purchasing items
- Avoiding products with excess packaging or buying in bulk and avoiding packaging altogether
We have become reliant on many uses of plastic in our day to day life and now have to find ways to reduce our use of them in order to stop the damaging effects. Becoming aware of the amount of plastic in our lives and then taking steps to reduce this amount we use will start the process of halting some of the damage that has been done. Change can happen if we all try together.
Additionally, businesses and governments can take steps to reduce their use of single-use plastic, such as introducing legislation that bans certain types of plastic or offering incentives for businesses to reduce their plastic usage. Cities in Canada have recently banned single use plastic in businesses and hopefully other cities around the world will follow suit. Start conversations with friends, neighbours and family members about the damage of plastic and ways to reduce it.
The World Economic Forum released an article reporting countries around the world who have banned the use of plastic bags and other single use plastics.
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