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Why is plastic bad for the environment?

28th October 213 mins
By Toucan

Why is plastic bad for the ocean?

Every year, eight million tons of plastic enters the ocean.

Nowadays, it is relatively common knowledge that plastic is not the most eco-friendly of materials. But do you know why? Or how it causes damage?

Why should I avoid single-use plastics? How do my shopping bags end up harming sea creatures? Why is it important to recycle?

Well luckily for you, we have some of the answers right here. It is time to educate yourself on why plastic is bad for the ocean.

Plastic bags

Let’s start off with something we have probably all used at one point or another - plastic bags. For a long time, plastic bags were used as a free, painless method of carrying home your weekly shopping and latest purchases. That all changed in 2015, when the 5p fee was introduced as an acknowledgement of the damaging effects of plastic bags. Since the introduction of the charge, sales of single-use carrier bags have dropped by 95% in the main UK supermarkets (per The Guardian).

Like most plastics, plastic bags are made from crude oil, a highly pollutive and non-biodegradable substance. This then causes two huge issues for ocean wildlife when these plastic bags find their way into the sea and create areas of plastic pollution...

Suffocation

It is estimated that over 100,000 marine animals, a large portion of which are sea turtles, die every year because they either get strangled by plastic waste after swimming through areas of plastic pollution, or mistake the plastic for food and suffocate upon eating it.

As the size of ‘plastic soup’ patches in the ocean continue to grow, the threat to sea creatures only becomes ever larger. One of the worst areas of plastic pollution is in the Pacific Ocean, where there is a patch that is over 80 times the size of the UK.

Toxins

Plastic pollution causes harm to animals and plants, but also humans, through toxic pollutants that are released as plastic decomposes. For some plastics, it can take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to break down, so the environmental damage is incredibly long-lasting.

The harmful pollution of the plastic affects all aspects of the ecosystem, from plankton to whale, as the toxins work their way up the food chain through ingestion. These toxins can even be found in the fish we eat! Although it is not as visible, large numbers of sea creatures die each year due to the ingestion of toxins through plastic pollution.

How does it get there?

One question you might still be asking is “how does the plastic get into the sea?”. Well, as plastic takes such a long time to decompose, it spends its life sitting in ever-growing landfill sites that are overflowing with waste. Subsequently, wind and rain carry the plastic into rivers, streams and drains - all of which lead to the ocean. Even more sadly, sometimes humans intentionally dump their waste into the sea, knowingly causing a great deal of harm to the environment.

Solutions

Thankfully, there are ways to help save the ocean and its wildlife. You can make changes in your lifestyle by avoiding buying items that are packaged in single-use plastics, opting instead for recyclable and biodegradable materials. It’s also important that you dispose of your household waste correctly to avoid as much of it as possible from going to landfill sites.

Reducing your carbon footprint will aslp help make a positive impact, as the current increase in climate change is putting the fragile biodiversity of the ocean at risk. You can get some tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint here. Additionally, you can donate to ocean protection charities on the Toucan app.

Use Toucan to create a portfolio of up to three charities and split a monthly donation between them. Choose from over 20,000 charities and see who, how and where they help. Support charities long term or switch every month and track all the good you’re doing via the impact statement section.

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