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The Unhealthy Obsession With Disposable Plastic

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Our planet is being severely harmed by our dependency on plastic.

(Image: CEO)

Disposable plastics such as straws and candy bar wrappers are so common that we don't think twice when throwing them away. However, these almost unconscious actions of throwing them out have a high environmental cost, especially considering that 90% of plastic is never recycled after it is thrown away.

What is Disposable Plastic?

Disposable plastics are items that are created mostly from chemicals derived from fossil fuels (petrochemicals) and are intended to be thrown away immediately after use—often in a matter of minutes. Below are some examples of disposable plastics:

  • straws

  • drink stirrers

  • helium balloons

  • cotton buds

  • coffee cups & lids

  • containers

  • plates

What Makes Disposable Plastic Harmful?

Although many of these plastic things are practical and convenient, they also come with a hefty environmental cost. Half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced annually is disposable plastic. That's almost the same as the weight of the entire human race. Less than 10% of the seven billion tons of plastic that has been produced globally have been recycled. The rest is burned or dumped. We might only use certain disposable plastics for minutes, but they last way longer. For instance, a plastic straw that comes with milk tea will stick around for 200 years.

(Image: Olive Ridley Project)

Additionally, when disposable plastics end up in the environment, they don't biodegrade. They break down into microparticles that contaminate and pollute our water and food. Research suggests that exposure to many of the chemicals in plastics, known as endocrine disruptors, may have negative health effects on humans, including hormone abnormalities, reproductive issues like infertility, and even cancer. To give just one example among many, the Styrene and Benzene in Styrofoam are known carcinogens.

Not only does disposable plastic harm our health, it negatively impacts the entire planet.

  • Ninety three percent of the world's total annual river-based plastic pollution entering the oceans comes from just ten rivers.

  • Plastics kill millions of marine animals and seabirds each year.

  • Scientists predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.

  • Every stage of manufacturing plastic adds to the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

The length of the plastic packaging that is discarded annually is sufficient to circle the planet four times. Plastic garbage is growing at a 9% annual pace.

(Image: National Geographic)

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