All of the plastic that’s ever been created is still in existence on our Earth.
That was the bleak message shared by Irvine Nature Center’s executive director, Brooks Paternotte, on a recent NPR broadcast. Some researchers claim that the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, while others suggest that plastic never decomposes ; instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.
A quick Internet search brings up countless articles on how plastic harms the environment. For every square mile of ocean, there are 46,000 pieces of plastic. Wildlife that ingest plastic debris face injury or death. As the plastic in landfills degrades, harmful chemicals leach into groundwater. Chemicals from plastics affect the reproduction and development of animals, including humans. The evidence against plastic is staggering, yet this fact remains: 300 million tons of new plastic will be manufactured this year alone.
Plastics are so embedded in our modern world that they seem like an insurmountable evil. But consider the success of the Montreal Protocol, which phased out production of numerous substances responsible for depletion of the ozone layer. A similar international effort could stem the tide of plastic production.
Any movement begins with persistent rallying cries. Let’s start raising our voices.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator