OPINION: Plastic issue can no longer be ignored

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Every year, over 50 billion plastic water bottles are used in the U.S. alone. This equals about 1,500 plastic water bottles being consumed per second, according to One Green Planet’s article “What’s the Problem with Plastic Bottles?”

The amount of plastic being recycled is astonishingly low, according to Fast Company’s article “Message in a Bottle.”

“Water bottles are made of totally recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, so we share responsibility for their impact,” author Charles Fishman said. “Our recycling rate for PET is only 23 (percent), which means we pitch into landfills 38 billion water bottles a year—more than $1 billion worth of plastic.”

But not all of the bottles that are not recycled end up in the landfills. It is very common to find plastic in oceans and other large bodies of water.

Plastics that end up in the ocean pose a serious threat to all marine life. Once in the ocean, the plastic can break down and the harmful toxins used in the production of plastic are released and consumed by the marine life.

It is also very easy for plastics to be swallowed by all animals including, but not limited to, aquatic ones. In One Green Planet’s article “What’s the Problem with Plastic Bottles,” it talks of the dangers of plastic to animals.

“A sperm whale was found dead on a North American beach recently with a plastic gallon bottle which had gummed up its small intestine,” author Zion Lights said. “The animal’s body was full of plastic material including other plastic bottles, bottle caps and plastic bags.”

It can be very easy for animals to ingest and swallow plastic items that are unknown to them. Unfortunately, they often consume the plastic after mistaking it for food.

Not only animals are affected by the use of plastic, it is very destructive to the environment as well. One Green Planet’s article also goes on to mention the dangerous amount of fossil fuels that are required to both produce and transport plastic bottles.

“If you fill a plastic bottle with liquid so that it is 25 (percent) full, that’s roughly how much oil it took to make the bottle,” Lights said. “For a single-use disposable item, that’s a lot.”

Humans heavily rely on fossil fuels as a source of energy, but it is also a non-renewable source. This means that we, as a whole, need to do a better job of preserving our fossil fuels and reducing the unnecessary use of them whenever possible.

In Environmental Health News’ article “The Environmental Toll of Plastics,” author Jessica A. Knoblauch also warns about the threatening levels of fossils fuels used to produce plastics.

“Production of plastics is a major user of fossil fuels,” Knoblauch said. “Eight percent of world oil production goes to manufacturing plastics.”

It is absurd how many plastic bottles get thrown away every year when it is just as easy to throw them in a recycling bin or simply refill them. We, as a people, need to do a better job of reducing the amount of plastic wasted every day and help lessen the damage caused to the environment in the process.

Rachel Tucker is a junior in mass communications.

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