Reducing Pollution through Human Behaviour
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Many thought the world was going to end in 2012, and many took that seriously. How seriously are we going to take the conditions of our dying planet?
Plastic and single-use products are growing in popularity and hence waste is increasing. This is depleting our planet of life. Not only are these products not being disposed of properly, but as plastic decomposes it contaminates our soils and waterways. We depend on our planet and its materials for survival. In a world littered with microplastics, humans will not be able to survive the conditions of the dumpsite that used to be our planet. Environments around the world are being ruined, damaging our ecosystems, harming the wildlife that depends on these habitats, and deteriorating the Earth. Without these ecosystems the Earth will be ruined and the human race will not be able to survive. This is more than our backyard struggling to sustain wildlife and habitats - this is our home withering away.
Many manufactured products wind up in landfills, on roadsides, forests and oceans. As more and more products are being modernized, plastic is more commonly incorporated into the production of these products. Since 1960’s the use of plastics has almost doubled today. This is causing major issues because our planet is being overwhelmed with garbage. Garbage is taking over many environments around the world including the rainforest, the Amazon and rivers.
The first problem is that most of these items are single-use products, meaning that people use more of them now compared to the past. An example of these types of products is coffee cups. In the past, people would use and reuse durable ceramic or glass mugs to drink coffee. These people would only need to purchase a few cups throughout their lifetime. Now people will buy one to two to-go coffees per day since it is much more convenient. Most cups are decomposable as long as they are not made out of Styrofoam, but the lids are not decomposable. Most lids have Styrofoam incorporated into their production, which makes them non-recyclable. It is the same thing with other products such as toys, food packaging, cigarettes, etc. Students from my school have created a petition to get companies like Tim Horton’s and MacDonald’s and Starbucks to produce their lids out of decomposable materials like corn. If you would like to read more please click on the following link!
The second issue is the regulatory limitations in regards to what can be incorporated in the production of plastic. Although most products do have a recyclable symbol, the real story stems from the number inside the triangle. There is a universal recycling symbol system that includes 7 triangles numbered 1 through 7. The number indicates what type of resin that is incorporated in the product and therefore determines whether or not it is recyclable.
This system is very misleading because it is very unclear and most people that see these symbols automatically think that it’s recyclable when it is not. This leads to the contamination in our recycling programs due to the mix of different types of plastics. Some municipalities accept plastic #6 into blue bins (coffee lids, Styrofoam containers, plastic bags) while other cities do not. This is very confusing as it should be the same universally. Not only are symbols confusing on plastics, but also there should be symbols on absolutely EVERYTHING including electronics, clothing, books, jewelry, furniture, so we know what to do with the product at the end of its usable life. If a product is still useable and a person does not need it anymore, they should donate it or find a second use for it rather than throwing it away making the life of these products much longer.
The third problem is that a lot of our plastics are contaminated with leftover food-waste when it is disposed of, and therefore cannot be recycled. China has started to accept less and less of our recyclables to use for reproduction because what we send over is more waste than it is recyclables. So all of our efforts go to waste as the recycled materials still end up in landfills. Many people do not realize that it is very important to rinse a product if it has waste of any kind before throwing it in the recycling bin.
The final problem is that many developing countries do not have the infrastructure or proper economy to implement a recycling program. Most of these countries will actually burn their garbage in large fires, releasing a large amount of Carbon Dioxide in the air. If they do not burn the waste it piles up or spreads in surrounding environments harming wildlife.
Accumulation of garbage is becoming a huge problem and I believe that there are simple solutions. My first suggestion would be to implement a clear universal code for recycling symbols that are mandatory on every product available for purchase. This may be as simple as color coded symbols according to what recycling bin they belong to (black, blue, green or trash). The symbols should be large and placed in spot that can be easily seen by the consumer. I believe that if the government implemented this type of law or this was presented to the United Nations as a less expensive and more sustainable way of handling garbage. The blame should not go on the consumer for not knowing what to do with the product once they are finished with it but on the manufacturer for not clearly stating the end of life plan for the product. At the same time, there should be standards for the expected life of a product, stating how long a product is expected to last and find ways to make these products have longer life expectancies. If the whole world were to follow the same program, it would also make it much more simple for all countries including developing countries to implement a recycling program.
If there is a recycling program already in place for certain products such as batteries, electronics or metals, manufacturers should be obliged to indicate a phone number and address to allow the consumer to easily dispose of the product properly. There are programs in place but they are not very known to the public.
Finally, consumers should be encouraged to buy reusable products or products that are made to last longer durations. As stated earlier, in the old days people would use metal and glass products, which lasts much longer, is much better quality, and can be easily reused and reproduced into other products. Humans need to learn to live much more sustainably and respect the environment that they inhabit because right now the world is turning into a huge dumpsite. As plastics eventually decompose, they will contaminate our soil and water by leaking polluants. Not only are we harming other organisms and wildlife, but also we are hurting ourselves. Let’s do something before it’s too late! Do it for the planet since there is no planet B.
This petition is a student lead initiative, run by Natalie Perry and feedback provided by Banting students between the years 2017-2019.
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