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World Environment Day 2018: Five harmful impacts of plastic pollution

Responsible Business | Jun 05, 2018


“Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented.” – Barry Commoner

World Environment Day is held annually on 5th June. “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together and combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife and our own health.

Plastic pollution in numbers:

  • Up to 5 trillion plastic bags used each year globally
  • 100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year
  • It takes 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment
  • 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute

Below you will find a list of 5 harmful impacts of plastic pollution:

1. Environmental impact

Photo credit: Unsplash

A striking image of a landfill during sunset in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Nearly one third of the plastics we use escape our collection systems. Once in the environment, plastics don’t go away, they simply get smaller and smaller, last a century or more and increasingly find their way into our food chain. Waste management and recycling schemes are essential to a new plastics economy.

2. Soil impact

Photo credit: Unsplash

An image depicting the ever-growing problem of soil pollution caused by plastic bags taken in Taiwan. It takes 100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment. As plastic is composed of major toxic pollutants, it has the potential to cause great harm to the environment in the form of air, water and land pollution.

3. Water impact

Photo credit: Pixabay

13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean each year. The most common single-use plastics found in our oceans are, in order of magnitude, cigarette butts, plastic drinking bottles, plastic bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers, other types of plastic bags, and foam take-away containers.

4. Human impact

Photo credit: Unsplash

As a result of plastic pollution, fish and wildlife are becoming intoxicated. Consequently, the toxins from the plastics have entered the food chain, threatening human health. Worryingly, little is known about the impacts of micro plastics on human health. That being said, it is evident that the chemicals are not healthy for humans.

5. Economic impact

Photo credit: Pixabay

By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. The economic damage caused by plastic waste is vast. Studies suggest that the total economic damage to the world’s marine ecosystem caused by plastic amounts to at least $13 billion every year. The economic, health and environmental reasons to act are clear.


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