“I am concerned about the air we breathe and the water we drink. If overfishing continues, if pollution continues, many of the species will disappear off the face of the earth.” -Bernard Marcus.
Plastic pollution is a serious environmental issue that is affecting marine life, wildlife species, natural environment and fresh water bodies across the world. In fact, plastic pollution is when it gathers in an area (water, land etc.) and start affecting mother nature, marine species, wildlife and human beings.
Plastic pollution is a key ecological threat which destroys habitats, disrupts food chain, pollutes groundwater, land and air, poisons seas, oceans and kills animals as well. Plastic goods involving bottles, caps, polythene bags, balloons, wrappers, shoes and discorded fishing nets are made of toxic pollutants which has enormous potential to cause irreversible harm to environment, marine life and human population. Plastics after entering the sea become a serious threat to marine life owing to its non-degradable nature. Evidences reveal that plastic products take hundreds of years to decompose because they contain strong chemical bonds.
It is estimated that 8 million tones of plastics are deliberately dumped in the sea globally or find its way through wind, flow of rivers and urban runoff. According to Erik Solhein, head of UN Environment, “our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and turning some marine areas into a plastic soup. In cities around the world, plastic waste clogs drains, causing floods and breeding disease.”
Undeniably, garbage is dumped in oceans and seas which mostly contains plastics. It ultimately jeopardizes life below water and result in death of many marine species. According to UNO Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “World is swamped by harmful plastic. Every year, more than eight million tones end up in the oceans. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”
Like other countries of the world that are bearing the brunt of plastic pollution, Pakistan is no exception. Our country is also experiencing an escalating issue of plastic pollution. Undoubtedly, plastic pollution is causing incalculable damage to the natural environment, marine life, poisoning oceans and posing serious health problems in Pakistan. In fact, Plastic is one of the major soil degradable pollutants which is putting human and marine life in danger along with environment. Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (PEPA) reveals that 55 billion tones of plastics are used in country and expected to rise by 15 percent yearly.
It is the fact that Pakistan produces above 20 billion tones of plastics each year. Whereas, due to inadequate solid waste disposable system heaps garbage, trash dumps and landfills mostly remain unattended and at last burnt or headed towards water. As a result, such heaps of garbage allow pollutants enter ground, affect marine, wildlife and groundwater. It is the believed that accumulation of plastic in the ecosystem particularly along the coast and in offshore waters create a grave threat to marine biodiversity.
Floating plastic is mistaken as food and many get stuck in such stuff with serious often deadly consequences. According to WWF-Pakistan, “65 percent of garbage that litter beaches along Pakistan’s coast consists of Plastics. Only small fraction of garbage is burnt, which has its own consequences but garbage that reaches the ocean consists mainly of non-degradable plastics that is rapidly destroying marine habitats.”
There is no denying the fact that plastic pollution is one of the daunting ecological challenges for all countries including Pakistan. It will continue to cause harm to life on land, life below water and environment if timely action is not initiated. Therefore, we all badly need to act now to tackle this worsening issue.
First of all, single-use plastic bags such as shopper, water bottles, utensils and straws are of the chief causes behind the rapid increase in plastic pollution. Thus, 3R (Recycle, Reuse and Reduce) formula must be applied in this regard as it will help reduce new plastic production. Whereas, ban on plastic bags should be enforced. This initiative will truly prove to be effective in countering one of the causes of plastic overuse. In addition, plastic waste management practices must be improved in an efficient manner.
Furthermore, media, civil society, organizations and stakeholders must do their part in creating awareness and changing consumer behavior. Plastic reduction strategies will facilitate in alteration of consumption pattern. Besides, government must sponsor research, innovation and the development of alternative materials of plastic particularly eco-friendly and affordable.
Above all, effective policies of the promotion and adaption for recycling, reusing and reducing plastic products must be introduced as mentioned above. Mainly because these policies will slowly but surely lead to considerable reduction in the rising tide of plastic and plastic pollution as well.