The Plastic Pollution Problem

sorting

The groups sorting their findings back in the classroom

A written collaboration by Alia ’19, Eri Nakamura ’19, Maya Octoman ’19, Annalise Selby ’19, Nick Tan ’18, and Bryce Vesel ’20

In the last century, humans have made huge leaps when it comes to technological standards and making living more convenient. While most of these innovations proved to be beneficial, there is one major invention that seems to cause more harm than good: plastic.

As reported by The Science History Institute, plastic polymers were first created in the early 1900’s, however, they weren’t mass-produced and used until more recently. Nowadays, nearly all store-bought food and household items are packaged in some form of plastic container.

Inherently, the world has a problem at hand,  the fact is that its hard to escape this “plastic apocalypse” that surrounds us and globally worsens every year. Examples of single-use plastic are everywhere. For instance, you buy a bag of chips, what do you do with the empty bag? Shockingly some people choose to discard it on the side of the road or as more commonly perceived as the right thing to do – the bag will be placed in a general garbage bin. However, what many don’t realize is that the sentiment in both actions is the same. Both actions create the same problem for our diverse world ecosystem.

As the world tackles this issue, it is important that proper methods of recycling and conservation are taught, but reaching a mass audience that will act coherently is difficult. As a result of this, plastic bags that are not properly recycled often travel a great distance from cities to the sea, according to New Zealand’s Greenpeace website, affecting and harming the creatures living in it, including humans.

The plastic that ends up in the sea gets broken down into tiny, micro pieces that can slip through a fish’s gills and into their intestines and muscles. As stated by The Independent’s online article, “Plastic Microparticles Found in Flesh of Fish Eaten by Humans”, This significantly harms the fish, and in most cases, causes them to die prematurely. When fish affected by plastic pollution are caught and eaten by humans, the plastic from their bodily systems can easily infiltrate ours. According to a study published by Arizona State University, humans’ consumption of microplastics can cause a plethora of health problems and other ailments such as cancer, birth defects, and childhood development issues.

Our Streets, Our Problem

In an effort to investigation material waste pollution. The high school Marine & Terrestrial Ecology of Malaysia class (MTEM) took to Jalan Kerja Ayer Lama and revealed that plastic is the primary commodity of littering in this area.

The team went across the street from the campus twice over a period of two weeks. In the first week, there was a total of 3.024 kilograms of plastic waste collected. A week after the initial clean up, they went back out to the same locations and found 0.606 kilograms of plastic had reaccumulated.

Plastic bottles, straws, and bags were the most commonly found plastic items, most of them emblazoned with logos from shops and restaurants that were nearby. In week 1, they found 50 bottles (2.282 kilograms) and in week 2, there were 10 bottles (0.11102 kilograms) found. Although these weights may not appear to be significant, this is only on a small section of one street in a city with many streets.

Along with plastic, another major concern is cigarette butts. We collected 14 butts in week 1 and 23 butts in week 2. Cigarette butts are small so they may not seem like a big issue because they are not as noticeable as plastic bottles. However, cigarette butts are not completely biodegradable and can still harm our environment.

Plastic is a major concern for our planet as it affects not just the environment, but all living organisms. To reiterate, particles of plastic are entering the water biomes and causing harm to the fish and other living creatures.

Be The Solution

In conclusion to the MTEM investigation of pollution around the ISKL area, it is clear from our findings what the main item contributing to this mess was plastic.

However, there can be a change made, as we proved that cleaning up our grounds actually improves the plastic waste; we should start with education within our community. As well as cleaning up, we need to educate people on how to properly recycle their waste or better yet finding more sustainable ways to forgo single-use plastic.

Many don’t realize what happens after you put plastic in recyclable bins. This is just a method that allows an efficient way to collect items so they can undergo further human methods of decomposition. However, the best way to prevent the “plastic apocalypse” is to minimize your use of plastic.

When you shop at the store, try to bring your own recyclable bags as this reduces the number of plastic consumers use. Refusing plastic products is even better. Don’t buy drinks in plastic bottles; use a refillable one of your own. Bring your own mug to coffee shops and say no to straws and drinks in bags like teh tarik to go. Do not let initial inconvenience get the better of you when making this change.

Ultimately, this littering catastrophe has to end. Our community is moving one step towards a cleaner world environment, and if you start recycling and reusing, your peers will as well. It all happens in a chain reaction, be the first to help, you definitely won’t be the last.