Plastics and the Environment

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These so-called microplastics are spread throughout the water column and have been found in every corner of the globe, from Mount Everest, the highest peak, to the Mariana Trench , the deepest trough. Microplastics are breaking down further into smaller and smaller pieces.

Plastic microfibers, meanwhile, have been found in municipal drinking water systems and drifting through the air.

Plastics & Microplastics

Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms. Nearly species, including endangered ones, are known to have been affected by plastics. Nearly every species of seabird eats plastics. Most of the deaths to animals are caused by entanglement or starvation. Seals, whales , turtles, and other animals are strangled by abandoned fishing gear or discarded six-pack rings. Microplastics have been found in more than aquatic species, including fish, shrimp, and mussels destined for our dinner plates. In many cases, these tiny bits pass through the digestive system and are expelled without consequence.

But plastics have also been found to have blocked digestive tracts or pierced organs, causing death. Stomachs so packed with plastics reduce the urge to eat, causing starvation.

Plastic Pollution

Plastics have been consumed by land-based animals, including elephants, hyenas, zebras, tigers, camels, cattle, and other large mammals, in some cases causing death. Tests have also confirmed liver and cell damage and disruptions to reproductive systems, prompting some species, such as oysters, to produce fewer eggs.

How plastic is damaging planet Earth | The Independent

New research shows that larval fish are eating nanofibers in the first days of life, raising new questions about the effects of plastics on fish populations. Once in the ocean, it is difficult—if not impossible—to retrieve plastic waste.

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Mechanical systems, such as Mr. But once plastics break down into microplastics and drift throughout the water column in the open ocean, they are virtually impossible to recover. The solution is to prevent plastic waste from entering rivers and seas in the first place, many scientists and conservationists—including the National Geographic Society —say.

This could be accomplished with improved waste management systems and recycling , better product design that takes into account the short life of disposable packaging, and reduction in manufacturing of unnecessary single-use plastics. Read Caption. Children play on the shore of Manila Bay in the Philippines, which is polluted by plastic waste.

Why is this bad?

The world's plastic pollution crisis explained Much of the planet is swimming in discarded plastic, which is harming animal and possibly human health. Incineration creates the most CO 2 emissions among the plastic waste management methods. Refining the material is the most greenhouse gas intensive part of the plastic lifecycle, and major expansions in the US and elsewhere will accelerate climate change, the report says.

A Shell ethane cracker being constructed in Pennsylvania could emit up to 2.

Why is this bad?

The annual emissions from just these two new facilities would be equal to adding almost , cars to the road, the report says. In the lifecycle of global plastic production — from extraction to disposal — was equivalent to the impact on the climate of MW coal-fired power stations. By , the report predicts, the global plastic footprint will be equivalent to coal plants running at full capacity.

This report demonstrates that plastic, like the rest of the fossil economy, is putting the climate at risk as well.

When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide

They are calling for urgent action to stem production and flow of throwaway plastic. Topics Plastics. Climate change Pollution news.