The impacts of plastic waste on our environment is more significant than it ever was before. By the year 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. A lot of us get by on ignorance, “the trash in the ocean will not harm me”, but just because we can’t see the damages it causes every day, that doesn’t mean that they are not there and that they won’t affect us all. The plastic ends up in our food, the plastic is severely hurting all living beings in the ocean, and the plastic is slowly but surely killing our ecosystem.
Most individuals think that there is nothing we can do, but the collective impact we have, as individuals, is massive. Billions of plastic straws are used everyday, the same goes for plastic bottles, plastic bags, and countless other disposable utilities. The vast majority of us use these utilities every day. In fact, the average person produces 64 tonnes of waste in their lifetime, which has a considerable amount of impact on the environment. As individuals, we can do more by using reusable products; reusable bottles, straws, bags, etc., rather than single use items, and this does include paper bags, since in terms of climate change, they have a very similar effect as plastic. As individuals, we can encourage each other to be kinder to our planet.
However, it is true that there is only so much an individual can do. Industries are greatly to blame for their alarmingly increasing effect on the environment, and governments should be doing more to reduce the amount of waste a country produces. Many countries have placed a ban or a tax on the use of disposable, single use plastic bags, and many have seen incredible results. In 2002, Ireland placed a tax on these plastic bags, and saw a 90% decrease in their use. Governments can do a lot more to save the environment, and as individuals, we do need to remember that we have a voice, a voice we can use to advocate for stricter guidelines towards industries’ waste production.
As agents for the future, we need to keep the environment in the back of our minds at all times. Mankind has proven to be very capable at having a negative effect on the environment, but we need to remember that we are also capable of righting our wrongs. Starting with changing our behavior towards waste, and pressuring those with the power of making large scale decisions to recognize the damages of our increasing waste production that will in turn make a larger scale change.
Update: as of the 28th of May 2018, the EU released new rules in hopes of reducing the amount of single-use plastic we consume daily.