Plastic pollution is a systemic problem and we have to act on it on different front. Here’s the problem we try to resolve:
Once discharged into streams or ocean, the plastic sinks to the seabed or floats on the water surface. Of the floating plastic, study estimates that 97% of it is redirected to shorelines and beaches and the remaining 3% constitutes the plastic gyres in the ocean that are often referred to as garbage patches.
Due to our over-consumption of plastic as well as the lack of infrastructure to manage it at the end of its life, a huge amount of plastic ends up in our environment. It’s the equivalent of a truckload of garbage being dumped into the ocean every minute.
As a result, the most beautiful beaches around the world are covered in plastic. By being in contact with the sun’s rays the plastic becomes more fragile and the effect of waves or erosion fractures it into smaller plastic particles called microplastic.
This plastic goes all the way up the food chain to us and whether it’s by what we eat, drink or breathe a study estimates that humans ingest on average the equivalent of one plastic credit card per week. The chemical composition of these plastics (Bisphenol A, Phtalate) and the absorption of other chemicals in the environment makes the plastic act as a medium that carries many toxic agents into the environment to get to us. These chemicals are known as endocrine disrupters that can affect reproduction, development and many other hormone related functions.
The impact of plastic on beaches is significant for the economy of coastal communities. The economic impact are multiple and manifest in different forms like recreational value to beach visitors, tourism spending on beach visits, commercial fisheries and real estate value. NOAA conducted a study on Tourism-Dependent Communities to quantify this impact and the results are eye-opening.
Unfortunately, without a change in the way we consume, the plastic production is expected to quintuple by 2050, which would have a disastrous impact on the ecosystem and the tourism economy of the communities affected by this problem.
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