The Impact of Plastic Waste Materials on Marine Animals: A Global Problem
Do you know that our lives revolve around animals and the environment?
As the population increases, the demand for plastic materials also increases. Plastic materials, in recent times, have become an everyday necessity in our lives, ranging from packaging, and carrying foodstuffs, to storing waste materials at our homes. After being produced and manufactured, the products are distributed and taken to their point of sales, making them available to consumers. Immediately after use by the consumers, plastic materials are discarded, with no intention for further use, making them waste products. In most cases, they are disposed of in streets, bridges, and drainages and consequently end up in the oceans during the rainy season. The increase in these unfriendly practices of wastes is causing severe threats to marine life yearly. A recent study by the United Nations reported that approximately 817 marine animals across the world have been severely affected by plastic waste materials through entanglement or ingestion in the last eight years.
The more marine animals are affected by plastic debris, the more likely there is to be a shortage of food generated from the marine ecosystems. For example, globally, fish is recognized as an essential source of animal protein to humans. If fish species are continuously affected by plastic waste materials, humans would be subjected to losing the protein gained from fish subsequently. Other marine animals (such as shrimps, crabs, turtles, etc.) populations would also be affected, leading to marine food insecurity and global loss of jobs by fishermen.
Who Are Responsible for the Continuous Increase of this Problem?
Undoubtedly, plastic bags and bottle packaging, and manufacturing industries should be the first to poop up in your mind whenever you are asked about those to held responsible for this problem. We should not ignore their roles. We should agree to the fact that they are playing a critical role in making food, water, and clothing, among other things, accessible to us at any time and everywhere; but the way their products are affecting our oceans and environment demonstrates the need for them to find alternatives to plastic bags and bottle methods of packaging. There are various alternatives to their current existing packaging strategies; they can do it; they just need to be applying futures thinking by designing for the future. Their aims should not only circulate around end-users or target audience satisfaction; they should also think about how their products can impact the environment after use. Would our product negatively or positively affect the environment after use by their end-users? Is there a way we can support our product end-users to preserve the environment while using our products? These are excellent starts, and there is a need for them to look into these areas.
What is the Way Forward?
Despite the increase in the globally plastic waste crisis, several efforts have been brought to light to help address the problem. We frequently hear of recycling plastic waste materials to valuable products, transitioning from plastic bags to other forms of bags, abstaining from plastic litter bottles to reusable water bottles, positioning garbage cans in public areas, and daily/weekly/monthly cleaning up our beaches. But the big questions are: could these indeed be the way forward to overcome this problem? Are they feasible?….. The words transitioning, abstaining, positioning, and cleaning up are powerful and are somewhat problem-solving terms. In recent times, several studies have been conducted on the areas mentioned above, and some have proven that they could possibly be the way forward for us to move from our current plastic era to eco-friendly ways of living and protecting our environment. It does not stop there; we should continue thinking innovatively and refining these suggestions to benefit the current and future generations.