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Plastic Pollution

Last updated date: 29th Feb 2024
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Introduction to Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is the buildup of plastic objects and particles in the environment (– for example, bags, plastic containers, and microbeads) that harms wildlife, natural and wildlife habitats, and mankind. Plastics that pollute the environment are classified as micro, meso, or macro debris, depending on their size.

Because plastics are cheap and long-lasting, humans produce a large amount of it. Most metals, on the other hand, have a chemical structure that makes them resistant to several natural degradation processes, making them hard and slow to degrade. These two components have combined to make plastic pollution a major issue in the environment.

Land, rivers, and oceans can all be affected by plastic pollution. Each year, 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste is predicted to reach the ocean from coastal areas.


The plastic waste trade was described as "a major contributor" to marine litter. Importing countries also lack the ability to process most of the plastics waste. As a result, the UN has placed a penalty upon this trade of waste plastic until it meets the requirements.

Types of Plastic Debris

Microplastics, and mega- and macro-plastics, are the three main types of plastic that lead to plastic pollution. The Northern Hemisphere has the highest concentrations of mega- and microplastics, which are concentrated across urban centres and waterfronts. Due to various currents carrying waste, plastic could be detected off the coasts of certain islands.

Footwear, packaging, and other household items detected washed ashore or dumped in landfills contain both mega- and macro-plastics. Remote islands are much more probable to have aspects relating to fishing. Micro-, meso-, and macro debris are terms used to describe these types of debris.

Micro Debris

Plastic fragments ranging in size from 2 to 5 mm are known as micro debris. Plastic debris that begins as meso- or macro debris can degrade and collide, breaking its food into smaller parts, resulting in micro debris. Nurdles are a term used to describe micro debris.

Nurdles are recycled and processed to produce new plastic objects, but due to their small size, they are freely discharged into the atmosphere during manufacturing. Through rivers and streams, these usually finish up in ocean waters. Scrubbers are micro debris such as those found in household and cosmetic products. Filter-feeding organisms often eat micro debris and scrubbers due to their small size.

Macro Debris

When plastic debris is greater than 20 mm, it is classified as macro debris. Plastic grocery bags are an example of this. Macro Debris is commonly found in ocean waters and has the potential to harm native species. Fishing nets seem to be a major source of pollution. They proceed to capture marine organisms as well as other plastic debris although they've been abandoned. These abandoned nets ultimately get too much to extract from the water as they have developed to be up to six tonnes in weight.

Plastic Production

Decomposition of Plastics: 

Plastics account for about ten percent of all discarded waste. Plastics come in a variety of shapes and sizes, based on the precursors used and the polymerization method used. Plastics and resins possess different properties for contaminant absorption and adsorption based on its chemical composition.

Persistent Organic Pollutants: 

The global production of plastics is predicted to be around 250 mt/yr. Their abundance has been discovered to transfer POPs, or persistent organic pollutants. The expanded spread of algae related with red tides has been linked to such pollutants.

Commercial Pollutants: 

Break Free From Plastic, a non-profit organisation, mobilised over 70,000 volunteers in 51 countries to acquire and recognize plastic waste in 2019. According to The Guardian, such volunteers gathered over "59,000 plastic bags, 53,000 sachets, and 29,000 plastic bottles." Consumer products could be found on roughly half of the objects. Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Pepsico were the most popular brands.

Causes of Plastic Pollution

Below given are the causes of plastic pollution:

  • The world's population is growing, and people are becoming increasingly reliant on plastic.

  • The grocery industry, which uses plastic to package anything.

  • Bottles, straws, stirrers, straws and container caps made of plastic.

Effects of Plastic Pollution Caused by Plastic Waste

Below given are the plastic harmful effects:-

Effect of Plastic on Environment: 

Plastic debris distribution is extremely variable due to a variety of factors including wind and ocean currents, metropolitan areas, coastline geography, and trade routes. In some cases, the human population often plays a significant role. Enclosed areas, including the Caribbean, are much more probable to have plastic.

Effects of Plastic on Land: 

Plastic pollution on land endangers plants and livestock, as well as humans who live off the land. Plastic concentrations on land are estimated to be four to twenty-three times higher than in the ocean. Plastic is much more abundant and concentrated on land than it does in the ocean.

Effect of Plastic in the Ocean: 

Each year, the amount of plastic in the ocean waste reaching the seas grows, with the majority of the plastic approaching the seas in fragments smaller than 5 millimetres. Plastic pollution in the world's oceans was reported to be around 150 million tonnes in 2016, with that number expected to rise to 250 million tonnes by 2025.

Effects on Animals: 

Animals can be poisoned by plastic pollution, that can have a negative impact on human food supplies. Plastic pollution has also been mentioned in the article as being extremely harmful to giant marine mammals. In the stomachs of certain marine species, including sea turtles, large amounts of plastic were being discovered.

Effects on Humans: 

Manufacturing compounds contaminate the air by discharging gases into the air and water. Some plastics-related chemicals, including bisphenol A (BRA), phthalates, and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), are regulated and potentially harmful. 

Despite the fact that all these compounds are dangerous, they were used to make medical devices, food packaging, flooring materials, perfumes, bottles, and cosmetics, among other things. Such compounds are toxic to humans in high doses, killing the endocrine system. The female hormone oestrogen is imitated by BRA.

Ocean Pollution

Chemicals and waste, the majority of which arises via land-based sources and has been purified or pushed into the ocean, make up ocean pollution. Pollution harms the environment, the health of all species, and economic systems all over the world.

Chemical contamination, also known as nutrient pollution, is hazardous to one's health, the environment, and the economy. When human activities, such as the use of fertiliser on farms, result in chemical runoff into rivers that eventually flow into the ocean, this kind of pollution occurs. Chemical contamination, also known as nutrient pollution, is hazardous to one's health, the environment, and the economy. When human activities, such as the use of fertiliser on farms, result in chemical runoff into rivers that eventually flow into the ocean, this kind of pollution arises.

FAQs on Plastic Pollution

Q1. Are We Eating Plastic?

Ans. Plastic particles have been found in our drinking water, food, the air we breathe, and, yes, within our bodies, according to reliable studies. The average American drinks, eats, and breathes in far more than 74,000 microplastic particles per year, according to a study released in 2019.

Q2. How Many Fish Die as a Direct Result of Consuming Plastic?

Ans. Every year, 1,00,000 marine animals die as a result of plastic entanglement, and these are the ones that have been discovered. A million seabirds die every year as a result of plastic pollution.