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  • Subject area(s): Science
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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1. Land: Chlorinated plastics can release harmful chemicals into the surrounding soil, which can then seep into groundwater or

other surrounding water sources. This can cause serious harm to the species that drink this water. Landfill areas are constantly

piled high with many different types of plastics. In these landfills, there are many microorganisms which speed up the

biodegradation of plastics. Degradation of plastics leads to the release of methane which is a major contributor green house effect.

Some landfills are taking initiative by installing devices to capture the methane and use it for energy, but most have not

incorporated such technology. Release of methane does not only occur in landfills, biodegradable plastics also degrade if left on

the ground, in which case degradation takes longer to occur.

2. Ocean: Nurdles are plastic pellets (a type of microplastic) that are shipped in this form, often in cargo ships, to be used for the

creation of plastic products. A significant amount of nurdles are spilled into oceans, and it has been estimated that globally,

around 10% of beach litter is nurdles. Plastics in oceans typically degrade within a year, but not entirely, and in the process toxic

chemicals such as bisphenol A and polystyrene can leach into waters from some plastics. Polystyrene pieces and nurdles are the

most common types of plastic pollution in oceans, and combined with plastic bags and food containers make up the majority of

oceanic debris. In 2012, it was estimated that there was approximately 165 million tons of plastic pollution in the world's oceans.

Plastic pollution has the potential to poison animals, which can then adversely affect human food supplies. Plastic

pollution has been described as being highly detrimental to large marine mammals, described in the book Introduction to Marine

Biology as posing the "single greatest threat" to them. Some marine species, such as sea turtles, have been found to contain large

proportions of plastics in their stomach. When this occurs, the animal typically starves, because the plastic blocks the animal's

digestive tract. Marine mammals sometimes become entangled in plastic products such as nets, which can harm or kill them.

Over 260 species, including invertebrates, have been reported to have either ingested plastic or become entangled in the

plastic. When a species gets entangled, its movement is seriously reduced, therefore making it very difficult to find food. Being

entangled usually results in death or severe lacerations and ulcers. It has been estimated that over 400,000 marine mammals perish

annually due to plastic pollution in oceans. In 2004, it was estimated that seagulls in the North Sea had an average of thirty pieces

of plastic in their stomachs.

3. Effects on humans: Plastics contain many different types of chemicals, depending on the type of plastic. The addition of

chemicals is the main reason why these plastics have become so multipurpose, however this has problems associated with it. Some

of the chemicals used in plastic production have the potential to be absorbed by human beings through skin absorption. A lot is

unknown on how severely humans are physically affected by these chemicals. Some of the chemicals used in plastic production

can cause dermatitis upon contact with human skin. In many plastics, these toxic chemicals are only used in trace amounts, but

significant testing is often required to ensure that the toxic elements are contained within the plastic by inert material or polymer.

Plastic pollution can also affect humans in which it may create an eyesore that interferes with enjoyment of the natural


4. Reduction efforts: Efforts to reduce the use of plastics and to promote plastic recycling have occurred. Some supermarkets

charge their customers for plastic bags, and in some places more efficient reusable or biodegradable materials are being used in

place of plastics. Some communities and businesses have put a ban on some commonly used plastic items, such as bottled water

and plastic bags.

5. Collection: The two common forms of waste collection include curbside collection and the use of drop-off recycling centers.

About 87 percent of the population in the U.S.A. (273 million people) have access to curbside and drop-off recycling centers. In

curbside collection, which is available to about 63 percent of the U.S.A. population (193 million people), people place designated

plastics in a special bin to be picked up by a public or private hauling company.


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