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How single-use plastic is killing the Earth

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged the entire world to put an end to single-use plastic. According to data by World Economic Forum, about 150 million tons of plastic - many of it non-degradable - is floating in our oceans. 

Disposable plastic

Single-use plastic is commonly known as "disposable plastic". Items made of single-use plastic are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.

The items include things like plastic bags, straws, water bottles and most food packages.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Tons of plastic in use worldwide

According to a report by the United Nations, the world produces roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable.

This means that 50 per cent of  300 million tons of plastic in use takes thousands of years to be disposed completely after it is used only once.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Plastic packaging

The United Nations is its report titled, "Single-use plastics - A roadmap for sustainability" stated that "plastic packaging accounts for about half of the plastic waste in the world."

"Much plastic may be single-use, but that does not mean it is easily disposable. When discarded in landfills or in the environment, plastic can take up to a thousand years to decompose," the report also said.

(Photograph:Reuters)

Microplastics

Interestingly, the UN report also states that just nine per cent of the world's nine billion tonnes of plastic has been recycled.

Most of our plastic ends up in landfills, oceans and waterways, the UN report notes. 

Plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they slowly break down into smaller pieces of plastic called "microplastics" which is harmful not only for the Earth but for humans as well.

(Photograph:AFP)

Plastic pollution

Despite its extreme isolation, a freak confluence of geography and ocean currents means Henderson has one of the highest concentrations of plastic pollution on the planet.

"We found debris from just about everywhere," said Jennifer Lavers, an Australian-based researcher who led an expedition to the island last month. 

"We had bottles and containers, all kinds of fishing stuff and it had come from, well, you name it Germany, Canada, the United States, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador."

(Photograph:AFP)

Toxic chemical

For example, plastic bags and styrofoam containers which are the major chunk of global waste take thousands of years to decompose, meanwhile, its toxic chemicals continue to contaminate our soil and water. 

The toxic chemical can also enter the human chain by being transferred through animal tissues. Several reports suggest such chemicals can damage the nervous system, lungs and reproductive organs.

(Photograph:AFP)

Plastic garbage in Ocean

According to data by World Economic Forum, about 150 million tons of plastic - many of it non-degradable - is floating in our oceans. 

For animals and sea plastic items like bags and straws choke wildlife and block animals’ stomachs. Turtles and dolphins, for example, often mistake plastic bags for food.

To paint an even more horrifying picture, the government of Canada reports that each year about eight million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans. That is like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.

(Photograph:Reuters)