Plastic pollution is the pollution caused by the disposal and accumulation of plastic material into the environment. Plastic is now the most common material that is a basic essential in our everyday life. They are all around us in the form of plastic bags, containers, credit/ debit cards, stationary, electronic items and many more. Plastic is a material made up of organic synthetic or semi-synthetic degradable matter. This matter can be broken down into small molecules but cannot be totally eliminated from the environment.
There are various types of plastic produced such as natural, synthetic, crystalline, amorphous and biodegradable. Plastic pollution is mainly caused due to the human made synthetic plastic being used and disposed. it ranges from pollution caused by litter plastic on the land, water pollution to marine debris. Specifically, there are six main issues caused by plastic pollution. First is the impact on environment. The burning of plastic material releases dangerous and harmful gases such as Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Di Oxide and toxic gases which leads to global warming.
Second is the impacts on oceans killing. The plastic waste that is disposed into the oceans is the most dangerous threat today for ocean animals. The waste released by industries manufacturing plastic material into the water resources nearby and into the oceans is very harmful. The marine life is to the utmost threat with such kind of chemical pollutants. As plastics are not totally degradable, the small particles are eaten by the water animals. This causes problem, reproductive issues and sometimes even death.
Even birds mistake plastic bags or material on the sea surface as their prey and end up consuming them which can be very fatal to their health. Many fish, mammals and amphibians of the water even lose or hurt their limbs due to the entanglement caused by the fisher men’s nets, sacks and ropes. Sea turtles are the most effected species due to plastic pollution in the oceans. They tend to mistake plastic bags as jelly fish and get entangled in them. The ingestion of plastic by sea turtles can be very menacing.
It can cause obstruction of oesophagus or perforation of the bowel, thus killing the sea turtles. Third is impact on living creatures. The release of toxic gases while manufacturing, recycling and burning plastic can cause many dreadful respiratory, skin and other diseases as a result of inhalation and contact of these chemicals. The consumption of plastic food bags by animals can cause stomach and intestine related diseases. Plastic bags can even clog the drains and sewerage system which increases the sewage maintenance cost and even spreads water borne diseases. Read pollution questions for students
Fourth is effect on scenery. The littering of waste plastic material in the public places can look untidy and unhygienic. It important for the tourism industries to sustain good environment. Fifth is the impact on ecosystem. The stagnation of plastic on the soil can affect the soil fertility and decreases the water absorption strength of the plant. And last but not least, it takes a lot of money and resources to get rid of the plastic that is disposed in the oceans, because oceans contain salts and this salts merges with the plastics and thus making it difficult to burn and defuse plastic.
Since we have discovered the threat of plastic pollution, we are able to see that we need a strong will to change the current behaviour. We believe government plays very important role in protecting the environment from the plastic pollution. For example, the case of California’s green industry initiative (CGCI), governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to establish the CGCI aiming for reducing public and environmental exposure to toxin. This is six – part initiative of which two parts later became statute in 2008. Similarly, in this case, government can lead the fight against plastic pollution in various ways.
Government is policy makers. Policies can largely influence directly and indirectly to consumer behaviour and the ways which organisation do business. When government issues policy to ban or put tax on the use of plastics in productions, it creates immediate pressure to manufacturers to reconsider manufacturing decision. The manufacturers may be forced to consider the use of re-use plastics as raw material as much as possible or even shift to substitute materials that are more environmental friendly. Taxing on the use of plastic bags when shopping helps consumer to shift away from plastic bags to eco-bags.
As a result, we can reduce the total number of plastic goods produced and disposed currently. Regulating advertisement to promote plastic pollution awareness on labeling can raise the concern for the consumer. Although this plastic pollution have been mentioned from few decade ago, many people are not well aware of the final destination of plastic goods such as bottles, bags and fishing equipment etc. This information is not written in product labels because such things would be less favorable for the consumers and producers, it can decrease the buying intention.
In such a case, policy makers must regulate manufacturers to put environmental effect on their products’ labels for consumers’ consideration. Government can encourage individuals/organizations to clean up the plastic waste by subsidizing such actions. It helps to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on scenery and use the waste later for recycling. Moreover, government can prevent plastic wastes into ocean by putting unique container for plastic goods. In this way plastics are separated from other material so that they can be easily collected for recycle or disposal.
Education is a powerful tool to make changes in the society. Among all stakeholders, government has great influence on this sector. Proper guidance on usage of plastic goods and substitute materials can be merged into education program in primary and secondary schools. Education on early stage of children can help form the positive behavior toward the environment. It helps will definitely reinforces the behavior change in the long-term. Last but not least, government can support the research on materials derived from renewable resources.
Government is the one who must provide enough financial resources to fund the research for the material to replace the role of plastic in either production or daily life context. These researches are expensive but it will pay back in the future, in terms of innovating environment friendly production and cleaner environment for the future generations. Besides the policies of government, we also believe that non-government agencies or any other private organization can play an important role in environmental protection.
As we can easily see a large number of plastic bags or other short-lived product discard permanently every day, it is best to conclude that consumers and retailers are identified as the target users of plastic bags/materials. The use of plastic bags provides lots of advantages to consumers because of their lightweight, durability and price. In the long-time, its convenience and the low cost are the main reason for the behaviors that are affecting global environment and human health.
Retailers can give their consumers many plastic bags when it is not really necessary since these plastic bags would simply are disposed in few hours. How can we deal with plastic-dependency? What could we do to change this behavior of wasting plastics? In our strategies, we aim to “reduce, reuse and recycle” plastics. Our first strategy is to use the mass media (talk shows, newspapers, TV, advertisings) and social-network as the main communication method (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) to raise people’s awareness.
The research shows that 65% of people tends to believe their friends while the rest believe in experts and celebrities. Therefore, social media communication channels have a significant influence in spreading the words to the society, to make people aware of the harmful effects of the plastic bags garbage by utilizing word – of – mouth. If the first strategies focus on discouraging the usage of plastic bags and raising the awareness of plastic pollution, the second aims to encourage the usage of substitute goods such as paper bags and other biodegradable products.
Encouraging people to use re-usable bag is a way to minimize the plastic dependency. Currently, some retailers have decided not to provide customers with free plastic bags. Some retailers also offer a nominal discount (3 or 4 cents per bag) for the customer who bring the eco-bag. At the same time, we must set up a place to put the unwanted plastic bags in every supermarket for recycling. Plastics, especially plastics bags can be recycled into new product such as children toys and into new plastic bags.
Third, events or volunteer works can be a direct connection with consumer and raise the awareness so that we can attract more attention to plastic pollution. These activities will support in bringing more people to participate in environmental protection. For example, residents can join in activities such as “beach cleanups” and “No Plastic Bag Day”, which is to encourage people not to use the plastic bags and reduce waste. It is also important to create campaign using celebrities (artists, singers, models) as the change champions who usually have significant influence to his/her fans toward green environment.
However, we believe it is the government that is the most effective in persuading the consumer to reduce their plastic consumption. As we have mentioned in the role of government, they can make policies and greatly affect the industrial behavior. If the industrial behavior changes, it is most likely to follow consumer behavior change; For example, some Japanese supermarket started to charge small amount of money for plastic bags, and some supermarket gives out extra points that can be used at their supermarket for not using plastic bags.
These policies were made by some private sectors in concerns for the environment. However, we believe it is necessary to expand the policy throughout the country, to make changes quickly and dynamic. Obviously, it is hard to determine who is responsible for the plastic pollution, therefore government entities can act as a leader and mediator for sustaining the environment. The government can also encourage schools to educate youth on the environmental issues including plastic pollution.
The producing of plastic product is predicted to continue growing in the next few years; therefore it is critical to get involvement of the younger generation, in order to make the differences in the future. Younger generation are familiar with social marketing, it is a great chance for the government to collaborate with the private sector to create an influential campaign using the SNS.
By concerning the role of government and the strategies that we have mentioned, we believe that the government can be a strong drive force to make the world change; starting with the industries, then to social media and at last to the consumer focusing on the younger generation. It is essential for government to take a leading role in the fight against the plastic pollution. They are the leader who must sustain people’s trust and faith of the society. They have the most resources to support changes in long-term. Current situation requires government to take actions as soon as possible.
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