Effects of Plastic and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Got trash? Trash is a worldwide problem we do not think about; it impacts our lives continuously by compromising people’s health, wildlife, and the environment. Every individual has the responsibility to get involved, take simple steps conducive to minimize the amount of trash created and work with the community to educate younger generations, and with organizations to develop a long-term plan to prevent further damage to health, wildlife and environment.
Based on the 2008 Environmental Protection Agency report Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generation, Recycling, and Disposal, every American produces 4. 5 pounds of waste a day; however, only 1. 5 pounds are recycled. This translates in 250 million tons and 83 million tons recycled and composted (EPA, 2008, p. 1). Most of the garbage humans produce ends up in landfills and although they have mechanisms in place to avoid contamination, it is quite possible that it will still happen because trash creates different gases and liquids such as methane, which can contaminate the underground water, soil, and air.
These landfills are around the community you and your family live in and one of the short-term detriments is that it depreciates homes’ value. Furthermore, there are five “islands of trash” around the globe and in the ocean, they consist mostly of plastic and it affects the marine life and other animals because they confuse plastic with prey. The Pacific Trash Vortex is situated between San Francisco and Hawaii and it is said to weigh 3. 5 million tons.
Through a process called biological magnification, the toxins we add to the ecosystem such as the ocean, become more concentrated through the food web and it affects top carnivores (humans) most significantly (Campbell, Reece & Simon, 2007). It is possible that the fish you eat had eaten plastic, ergo; you may be consuming trash or toxins. Presently, there are different ways to address the waste problem; the most effective method is source reduction, which means, “altering the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount and toxicity of what gets thrown away (EPA, n/d. ). Other methods include recycling, composting, and combustion; however, these are in place because businesses sell their goods or products without considering the waste their processes and practices create. Recycling consist of collecting and processing products, manufacturing new products from recycled goods, and the last step in the recycling process is purchasing recycled products. Composting is a biological process that individuals can use to decompose materials naturally. Last combustion employs heat and it is used to reduce MSW volume and weight and depending on the combustor used, it can generate electricity.
In addition, there is a novel approach to waste disposal; it is called plasma-arc technology, which burns waste at 16,000 C and converts it into energy without combustion occurring and the consequent benefit of not releasing pollutants to the atmosphere. There are still environmental concerns on the use of plasma to rid off waste; however, it could potentially be the solution to eliminate landfills, decrease the effect on the environment and be economically sound producing electricity.
Consequently, the common factor in this dilemma is US, the individuals who are part of a community, a government, or a country. Individuals, communities, and government should work together, to make waste management a priority and an opportunity to learn and educate, to make source reduction possible, to provide the necessary resources to homeowners to help recycle and compost, to enable regulations that will make this process mandatory and easy.
As an example, in Las Vegas, a homeowner who wants to recycle has to request three bins, which hardly contain two weeks of recyclable, then, he or she has to sort the products among plastics, newspapers, and glass before disposing them, and once put on the curbside, the garbage workers will toss the plastic, paper, and glass together in the truck. In contrast, the same process in San Diego, California, is handled differently whereas the homeowner receives a 42 gallons garbage bin, which is picked up once a week, and it does not need to be sorted out.
The latter process encourages people to recycle while the former process causes the opposite effect. There is one answer to this problem, be conscientious on the products and food purchased and think about how to minimize waste, then, educate the youth to do the same, share with them the importance of recycling and composting and especially, the beauty of nature and wild life.