Plastic Wastes, Environmental issues and Possible Mitigations

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By Ambassador Vivian Nwogo

Plastics currently play a massive role in our daily lives. Plastics are utilized in virtually all areas of manufacturing. Tons and tons of plastic products are molded on a daily basis, even as the waste continues to build up. From water bottles, to credit cards, to the dashboard of a car, plastic is often a primary component. Due to the fact that most plastics are not biodegradable, an enormous sum of plastic waste continues to build up worldwide, with industrialized nations contributing the largest amount of plastic waste.

The burning of plastics releases toxic gases like dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (better known as BCPs) into the atmosphere, and poses a threat to vegetation, and human and animal health. Burning plastic also releases black carbon (soot), which contributes to climate change and air pollution.

*How monitoring possible?*

Bad for the climate and oceans. Plastic is a petroleum-based material, and when burned it’s like any fossil fuel : it releases climate pollution. This in turn leads to rising sea levels, increased ocean and air toxicity, and destruction of coral reefs and other marine life. *According to Environmental Protection Agency*, burning plastics is notably the worst possible end- of -life management approach for plastics from a climate perspective.

*Plastic Pollution Solutions* :

In March 2019, *the United Nations Environment Assembly* passed a resolution entitled Addressing *single-use plastic products pollution*. The resolution encourages governments and the private sector to “promote the more resource-efficient design, production, use and sound management of plastics across their life cycle”.

It also encourages Member States to “take comprehensive action, in regard to single-use plastic products, to address the waste through, where appropriate, legislation, implementation of international agreements, provision of adequate waste management infrastructure, improvement of waste management practices and support for waste minimization”.

*Effective Measures to Plastic Wastes are :*

1. Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastics
Wherever you live, the easiest and most direct way that you can get started is by reducing your own use of single-use plastics. Single-use plastics include plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, and any other plastic items that are used once and then discarded.

The best way to do this is by a) refusing any single-use plastics that you do not need (e.g. straws, plastic bags, takeout utensils, takeout containers), and b) purchasing, and carrying with you, reusable versions of those products, including reusable grocery bags, produce bags, bottles, utensils, coffee cups, and dry cleaning garment bags. And when you refuse single-use plastic items, help businesses by letting them know that you would like them to offer alternatives.

2. Recycle Properly
This should go without saying, but when you use single-use (and other) plastics that can be recycled, always be sure to recycle them. At present, just 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduces the amount of “new” plastic in circulation. If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic waste near you, check Earth911’s recycling directory. It’s also important to check with your local recycling center about the types of plastic they accept.

3. Participate In (or Organize) a Beach or River Cleanup
Help remove plastics from the ocean and prevent them from getting there in the first place by participating in, or organizing a cleanup of your local beach or waterway. This is one of the most direct and rewarding ways to fight ocean plastic pollution. You can simply go to the beach or waterway and collect plastic waste on your own or with friends or family, or you can join a local organization’s cleanup or an international event like the International Coastal Cleanup.

4. Support Bans
Many municipalities around the world have enacted bans on single use plastic bags, takeout containers, and bottles. You can support the adoption of such policies in your community. Here is a list of resources for legislative bodies considering limiting the use of plastic bags.

5. Avoid Products Containing Microbeads
Tiny plastic particles, called “microbeads,” have become a growing source of ocean plastic pollution in recent years. Microbeads are found in some face scrubs, toothpastes, and bodywashes, and they readily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems, and affect hundreds of marine species. Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products (find a list of products containing microbeads here).

6. Spread the Word
Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem. Tell your friends and family about how they can be part of the solution, or host a viewing party for one of the many plastic pollution focused documentaries, like A Plastic Ocean, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, Bag It, Addicted to Plastic, Plasticized, or Garbage Island.

7. Support Organizations Addressing Plastic Pollution
There are many non-profit organizations working to reduce and eliminate ocean plastic pollution in a variety of different ways, including Oceanic Society, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Global Environmental and Climate Conservation Initiative and others. These organizations rely on donations from people like you to continue their important work. Even small donations can make a big difference!

Article by Ambassador Vivian Nwogo for GECCI LAGOS STATE

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