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Plastic pollution poses a threat to humans

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By Mercy Kelani

Plastic debris is present everywhere, either intact or disintegrating.

To date, only nine percent of plastics around the world have been recycled, about 12 percent have been burnt, while the others are abandoned on landfills. Ever since the 1950s when the manufacturing of cheap, moldable, light and durable plastics commenced in large scale, they have fostered significant trade, health, industrial and sanitation progress. There have also been an increased growth in its production and use, and the frustrating effects they have on wildlife, the environment, and people.

Annual production of the product has improved from two million tonnes to 380 million tonnes between 1950 to the current moment, and according to projections, will quadruple by 2050. International trade in plastics is increasing with a worth of more than $1 trillion in 2018, according to UNCTAD. Pieces are present everywhere, either intact or disintegrating. As a result, the plastic pollution crisis are on the rise on the global agenda. As useful as the item is, it seems to have become an uncontrollable threat across the globe.

Its pollution causes food and water contamination.

As a significant and priority commodity, plastics have primary qualities of flexibility, malleability, and durability. This commodity is present in fisheries, transport, retail, personal care products, agriculture, renewable energy, technology, textiles and every other sector and industry that impact the daily lives of people, either directly or indirectly. Paulo Mandiro who is in charge of plastic plates in a manufacturing company said that pollution from the commodity is clogging waterways, overflowing landfills, and infiltrating the ocean.

He stated that the commodity can survive hundreds of years; although it could disintegrate into smaller pieces, it never fully degrades. Even with the fact that longevity is a key quality of the item, the plastic packaging of many purchased products are discarded after one use. The percentage of the commodity discarded in landfills leave toxic chemicals in the soil and ground water, polluting land, oceans and waterways. They cause food and water contamination which gets consumed by birds, fish, and ultimately, people.

The effects of this item violate fundamental human rights.

Exposure to microplastics have disturbing health effects because they attract pathogens, transport and release toxic chemicals that disrupt the endocrine by attacking the immune system and other functions of the body; including the development of the brain. By 2060, the use of the item will triple, and due to its non-biodegradability, the resulting trash will increase too. Its consumption will also increase exponentially in countries across the world. Without a significant change in humans’ habits, the number of the item that gets stuck in nature will multiply and cause more harm to animals, plants and ecosystems.

Anthony Okafor, a former legislator in Anambra State, said that the effects of plastics on the health of humans, food security and the environment violate fundamental human rights safeguarded under international human rights laws. Majority of this commodity floats on the oceans and wastes off in the environment for many years, causing harm to terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It likewise reduces the carbon sink capacity of the oceans needed to control climate change, thereby posing a threat to current and future generations.

Awareness should be raised through beach cleanup campaigns.

However, the majority of Large Ocean Small Island Developing States (LOSIDS) has made legislations for the reduction and prohibition of the import, sale and use of single use plastics. It has also worked with the business sector, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to promote the reduction of the pollution caused by the commodity and raise awareness through consistent beach cleanup campaigns. Environmental policy expert, Peter Börkey, noted that to reduce this item in the environment effectively, requires that developing countries are assisted in the aspect of improving their systems of waste management.

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UNEP: Website

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