Destructive, dangerous, and easy to acquire, plastic threatens everything, whether it be humans or animals, but humans continue to use it anyway. Plastic is one of the most harmful substances to chemically enter our natural environment. Animals can’t distinguish the difference between real food and plastic.
Plastic has been around for more than 100 years. In those years it has caused the most environmental destruction to our earth. Plastic was invented in 1869 by John Wesley Hyatt, who was inspired by a New York firm’s offer of $10,000 for anyone who could provide a substitute for ivory, according to ScienceHistory.org.
Thanks to human interactions with plastic, the ocean’s marine life is dying at an alarming rate. Fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals can become entangled in or ingest plastic debris, causing suffocation, starvation, and drowning. Woodland Regional High School has a way to dispose of plastic in a way that is beneficial to the environment and our students. Kurt Ogren, Principal of Woodland High School, explained.
“I try to use refillable reusable, but the bottles that I collect actually go to our skills kids, Ogren stated. They come in and pick the bottles and plastics up and they bring them to the store and get money that they use to buy supplies for their classes.”
Even though animals are more commonly affected by plastic, humans can be affected too. While plastic is estimated to take up to hundreds of years to fully decompose, some of them break down much quicker into tiny particles, which in turn end up in the seafood people eat, as stated by pewtrusts.org.
Of the 260 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean, according to a Greenpeace report. For comparison, the moon’s mass is 7.35 x 1022 kg, about 1.2 percent of Earth’s mass, meaning that the amount of plastic being dumped into the ocean is equal to a crescent moon out of the 260 million tons, represented by the 3 moons shown below. There is always a way to help animals who are affected by our plastic use though.
“When students needed community service hours at West Haven High School, we would take them up to Long Island Sound and have them pick up trash by the water and they would help pick things up,” stated Ogren.
Together, humankind must reduce, reuse, recycle. People can reduce by purchasing items with the least amount of packaging and buying in bulk when appropriate. People can reuse by avoiding disposable items. Finally, people can recycle by using community recycling programs and purchasing products made from recycled materials. If we want to look past today, then we need to change our actions now.
“My brother lives in Florida and he worked for Ding Darling,” said Ogren. Every now and then he will show me a picture where, usually a bird, is stuck with the thing that would be on a six pack of soda.”
In the end, plastic pollution goes back to people doing the right thing and being educated on the dangers of all plastic, not just the ocean’s. Doing the right thing will not only make the earth happier, but will make it a safer environment for all animals who inhabit it.