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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Columns

Plastic bans are necessary to protect life


If we ban plastic products the land and the ocean will be safer and healthier for all creatures. | Photo illustration by Corbin Ayers/The Cougar

I was strolling through Butler Plaza last semester when something caught my attention: booths. Outdoor booths lined the sidewalk, each advocating for or protesting against something. The last organization, in particular, was my absolute favorite.

An older man stopped me while I was on my way to sociology class and asked for a moment of my time. He wanted to play a small guessing game with me. A bit odd, but I took the bait.

The man asked me a few questions about the ocean’s health. He presented me with six panels, each with the name of a plastic. He asked for me to guess just how long the individual pieces of trash took to dissolve.

After guessing the indissolubility of six plastics, the man revealed the answers. What I thought I knew about plastic and what I actually knew about plastic were two entirely different things.

Plastic can take more than 400 years to dissolve. In other words, the trash found in the oceans today will outlive the current sea life. What’s worse is that according to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, every bit of plastic that has ever been made is still around today.

Oil companies do not plan to do anything about it, either. Instead, they intend to increase the plastic production rate by 40 percent within the next 10 years.

Fortunately, there are those who are aware of the surmountable issue. There have been several proposals to eliminate plastic and plastic products altogether. Plastic products affect landfills, endanger marine life and place humans at risk.

Environmental costs

Plastic bags litter landfills, and the trash piles are growing. These bags contain polyethylene, which releases oils when exposed to heat. In 2011, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly made the decision to ban plastic, which resulted in a 36 percent decrease in the number of trash bags making their way toward the local trash heap.

Due to this, fewer chemicals are released into the air and the land is no longer full of garbage. The area has good potential for enterprises, fairs or even simply replanting trees. Anything is better than using the space to pile bags of nylon filled with trash because it has nowhere else to go.

Banning plastic will improve marine life.

Most people focus on economic issues when discussing plastic bans, but plastic’s impact on ocean life is equally important, if not more so. About 10 tons of plastic drift through the ocean near Los Angeles every day, creating choking hazards for sea turtles, fish and other ocean life.

The World Health Organization found plastic particles in close to 90 percent of samples from popular water bottle brands. In one instance, a single bottle of Nestle contained over 10,000 shards of micro-plastic: bits and pieces of nylon that are invisible to the naked eye.

Since the ocean goes all around the globe, plastic finds its way from human hands into the water with ease. Between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of plastic briefly used before being discarded has been found in earth’s oceans every year.

Landscapes and the ocean are not the only things that plastic has taken hostage. The amount of petroleum oil required to make a single pound of plastic is equivalent to a car driving 0.0068 miles and to 22 gallons of water.

To put it into another perspective, 4 percent of the global oil production is used on plastic alone. At first glance, 4 percent is not a big deal. When considering the number of resources the production of plastic alone takes, however, it might be time to take a step back and think twice about the true cost of plastic bottles, grocery bags and other nylon goods.

Financial benefits

Banning plastic can save consumers a significant amount of money. By giving plastic the boot, industrious individuals can find themselves with heavier wallets. Litter taxes are not cheap and neither is the cost for plastic bags consumers are charged with in grocery stores.

The cost of plastic isn’t directly passed onto consumers. Consumers see these costs through heightened grocery costs. People pay more for everyday products just to use plastic bags.

We only use these plastic products for a brief period of time. After that, the plastic finds its way to the oceans or a landfill. Water bottles are often only used once before they’re tossed in the trash or on the ground, while grocery bags are converted into smaller trash bags before going into large garbage bins and on the way to the overcrowded landfill.

All in all, both marine life and human life face consequences when producing and using plastic. Though the situation may not seem as devastating now, it has proven itself to build slowly but surely.

As of now, ancient sea turtles are mistaking grocery bags for jellyfish while humans are unknowingly consume bits and pieces of plastic from water bottles, which are marketed as “pure” water.

How can we have pure water if the source is full of our trash? Our trash goes beyond just simply being disgusting. There are toxins that are actually damaging our bodies.

We must put an end to this now, and it can be as simple as reducing our trash, being aware and banning plastic products altogether. Some grocery stores have actually discontinued the use of plastic grocery bags. We need to become educated on how much more plastic is doing than just killing a few fish.

They are killing us.

Opinion columnist Kristin Chbeir is a psychology senior and can be reached [email protected]

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