Pollution is a huge problem across the world, and can impact areas hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from where it started (World Wildlife, 2020).
Some example of pollution and the problems it causes are:
- When we do laundry, small microfibers from the fabric of our clothes gets washed away and they are too small for water filtration plants to remove, so they end up in water courses and oceans (WWF, 2020).
- Chemicals in the landscape poison animals and accumulates in food chains, making some human food sources unsafe to eat (World Wildlife, 2020).
- Humans that are exposed to air pollution have increase risks of lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases (World Wildlife, 2020).
- Pollution damages ecosystems and kills soil microbes meaning plants can no longer grow (World Wildlife, 2020).
- If litter makes its way into drain and rivers it and it can then be transported to the ocean(WWF, 2020).
- Our attitude to the things we throw away is unsustainable; half of all plastics on the Earth are single-use and so are disposed of almost immediately(Plastic Oceans, 2020).
One of the biggest issues with pollution is that we don’t know how long it will take to break down. For example, plastic pollution is found on every single one of the Earth’s seven continents and it is estimated that it might take thousands of years to degrade but scientists do not yet know (IUCN, 2020)(Plastic Oceans, 2020). All we know is that once plastic gets to the ocean, it breaks down extremely slowly (WWF, 2020).
What We Can Do
The bright side of the pollution problem is that there are changes happening. More and more people are making decisions in their daily lives to reduce their impact on the planet. We can each try our hardest to dispose of and recycle our waste correctly. In addition, we can be thoughtful about where we purchase our goods and what kind of goods we purchase. Choosing sustainable alternatives to everyday products like cleaners is a good start and using refill stores like Refillism can help you have a long-term impact.
However, even if everyone tries their hardest to reduce their waste, there is still a need for large-scale, industry-wide changes. These are happening too; some governments have banned microbeads from cleaning products and cosmetics and there are steps being taken to decrease single-use plastic demand. It is important to push for policy changes that will have large-scale impacts, and not just fixate on single problems. For example, perhaps rather than simply banning plastic straws we should instead be looking at the bigger problem of waste as a whole (WWF, 2020).
Author: Bethany Newark
IUCN. (2020). Marine Plastics. Retrieved from IUCN: https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/marine-plastics
Plastic Oceans. (2020). Top Facts on Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from Plastic Oceans: https://plasticoceans.turtl.co/story/top-facts-on-plastic-pollution/page/1/1?teaser=true
Plastic Oceans. (2021). Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from Plastic Oceans: https://plasticoceans.uk/the-facts-plastic-pollution-2/
World Wildlife. (2020). Pollution. Retrieved from World Wildlife: https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/pollution
WWF. (2020). How does plastic end up in the ocean? Retrieved from WWF: https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/how-does-plastic-end-ocean