Plastic is a resistant and lightweight material that can be molded in almost any shape. It’s also cheap, which means it can be used on a very large-scale without having to worry about costs. The packaging industry, in particular, uses plastic as a packaging material to protect valuable goods. However, most if not all of that packing is discarded within minutes of its delivery. Almost all of that discarded plastic goes to Canada’s lakes, oceans, landfills. It affects each member of the food chain and eventually, us human beings. Plastic is the ultimate symbol of waste in the 21st century. It is a threat to human society and Ontario needs to ban single-use plastics.
Single-use plastic, also known as disposables poses serious health and environment-related risks. Single-use plastics include shopping bags, fast-food containers, plastic cups and cutlery, straws, etc. Despite the name, plastics even disposables can take up to thousands of years to naturally decompose. Even though the plastic products can be recycled, they rarely are. According to a recent research article, only about 9 percent of all plastic waste ever produced is recycled. 79 percent sit in landfills and 12 percent were incinerated. The same research says that if our waste management doesn’t improve, there will soon be 12 billion tons of plastic waste in our landfills and environment.
In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to move towards a cleaner and greener society. I agree with Prime Minister Trudeau and if we really want to move towards a more sustainable future, we must start with the control of plastic production and banning of single-use plastics. Among the numerous problems caused by single-use plastics is the threat to our biodiversity, precisely, marine life. According to a report, marine litter harms over 600 marine species. These species face deadly health issues due to ingestion and entanglement. What’s worse is that 15 percent of these species are endangered. The scale of this pollution is greater than most people realize. The same report states that by the year 2050 99 percent of all seabirds will have ingested plastic.
Single-use plastics pose a direct threat to human society as well. Most developing and even some developed countries do not have waste management systems that can deal with a large amount of plastic waste. Waste like plastic bags and styrofoam packaging can block sewers and hold water which then becomes breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other insects that can lead to an increase in vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Plastic can also find its way onto our dinner table. According to recent research, microplastics were found in table salt. Humans can also ingest dangerous microplastic by eating fish that lived in polluted water bodies. These microplastics have a negative impact on our nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Some plastics can even be carcinogenic.
Despite plastic being cheap to manufacture, they have a huge economic cost attached to them as well. For instance, single-use plastics are very popular at all sorts of parks and tourist venues, however, where there are single-use plastics, there is litter. And this litter can make a destination less attractive which will affect the city state’s tourism revenue. Recycling certain plastics such as styrofoam is also a costly process. Styrofoam is mostly air and thus it doesn’t make financial sense to store and ship it to centralized recycling plants. While studies are still ongoing to calculate the total cost of cleaning up and recycling all the discarded single-use plastics, estimates indicate that the cost of cleaning the marine litter alone will be over $13 billion.
Although many Canadian municipalities have already introduced plastics bans, there are still many that are debating whether or not to introduce a ban on single-use plastics. I believe the time for debate has passed and swift action needs to be taken. A federal ban on single-use plastics as well as developing a better countrywide waste management strategy are steps that should be taken as soon as possible.