The worrisome plastic pollution PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 April 2018 13:40

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

April 22 was marked globally as Earth Day. Without even realizing this I was moved to google topics on plastic pollution which I came across in the internet earlier this month in connection with a story on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). There were several stories on plastic pollution, from littering pristine beaches of remote islands and  marine life dying off because seals and coast dwelling birds were ingesting plastic from the water and the plastic is not digested, eventually killing the seals and the birds and fish like tuna and sharks. There is also great concern about micro plastic and the smallest size plastic which is referred to as nanoplastic.

The news stories centered on the type of plastic which is called PET, short for polyethylene terephthalate.  PET is the material used in packaging drinks and juices and research has shown that PET is a safe material for this use. However, there are two reasons why this plastic is now being looked at more critically.

Plastic bottles for water and juices are “single use” plastic, meaning they are usually thrown away after one use. Recycling them is not generally done and if indeed they are recycled it is for use in packaging lower value food or for use in another type of human activity altogether. A much greater quantity is simply thrown away and it is this that is the focus of concern.

Another reason is there is so much of it. The GPGP covers an area three times the size of France and it is 30 meters deep, floating in the Pacific. If we continue the rate of discarding PET and other types of plastic we will come to a time when we will not know where to put them. And plastic does not degrade quickly.  Will that be good for mankind?

A new concern is that plastic, in the years it takes to break down, eventually breaks down physically into very small particles which can be measured in nano units. A nano is generally understood as “one billionth” ; a nano gram then means one billionth of a gram. A very small size and weight therefore. The microplastic can wind up in the soil and from there in the air we breathe in. At this time scientists do not yet know what effect this will have on the health of man and animals in this planet. Research in this area is just now being carried out and we do not know what facts will be brought out.

We have an ordinance in ZC defining the use of plastic as wrappers and the like. How well is the compliance with the ordinance being monitored?