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Story of our Earth and Plastics

Updated: May 5

Plastic at the Beach. Photo Credit: Wix Media

Earth Month is underway and individuals and organizations are joining forces to make a difference this April! This year’s Earth Day theme is Planet vs. Plastics and it aims to bring awareness to the problem and importantly, solutions to combating plastic pollution. According to, the Earth Day movement aims for a 60% reduction in plastic production by 2040 and the elimination of single-use plastics by 2030, paving the way for a plastic-free future.

Learn quick facts about the current and future impact of plastic on the Earth with this guide. Knowing more today can make a difference in promoting the health of our plant and its species tomorrow.

Quick Facts About Plastics:

·      Bakelite, a type of plastic, was discovered by Leon Baekeland in New York in 1907. Baekeland was originally seeking a substitute for shellac, a natural insulator widely used in the electrical industries in the USA. Bakelite proved to be extremely light, durable, and easily moldable, which led to a surge in its demand. During World War II, its production increased by over 300%! However, Bakelite was eventually surpassed by other plastics because it was brittle and difficult to repair. As plastics evolved to become lighter, more durable, flexible, and sturdier, Bakelite fell out of favor as the material of choice.


·      Did you know that half of all plastics ever manufactured have been made in the last 20 years? Plastics are used in a wide variety of products and as demand for these products grows, so does plastic production and this is having a very negative effect on Earth.


·      Plastics are used in industries such as packaging, building, construction, toys, textile, consumer products, transportation, industrial and in electrical and electronics products.

·      Plastic production increased exponentially from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050!


·      The effect of this humungous plastic production is the waste it generates. Plastic toys and other plastic products are discarded by the tons yearly because children lose interest in them quickly.


·      While the lifespan of plastic products averages around 10 years, plastics can take up to 500 years to decompose, depending on their composition and disposal. So they are going to stay in dump sites for a very long time!

Plastic Film Wrap. Photo Credit: Wix Media

Plastic Vials in Medicine. Photo Credit: Wix Media

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Plastic pollution in marine and coastal ecosystems:

·      Every year, about eight million tons of plastic waste gets dumped into the oceans from coastal nations.


·      Microplastics: are created when plastic waste reaches the world's oceans through rivers, tributaries, ships, and boats. The combined effects of wind, sun, and water waves break these plastics down into small particles known as microplastics. These particles are ingested by aquatic animals and dispersed throughout every part of the ocean, from the surface to the deepest depths. Scientists estimate that approximately 170 trillion microplastics are currently present in the world's oceans. According to a 2021 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), this number could triple within the next twenty years. The environmental impact of microplastics is severe, with an estimated annual cost of $13 billion in damage to marine ecosystems.

·      Countless marine and freshwater animals are trapped and killed in plastic sheets which have not been converted into microplastics. Nearly every known water bird eats plastic.

Microplastic pollution in other ecosystems:

·      Atmospheric plastic pollution: Microplastic particles are found in the air. The rotting plastic dumped on land interact with all types of weather like rain, sun, and wind. And in every type of terrain.

Plastic pollution at poles

·      Mountains and high-altitude places such as the poles have been impacted by plastics. Tourism and mountaineering are two ways that microplastics can be generated. In spite of signs being posted, tourists and mountaineers throw plastic items such as plastic water bottles and food wrappers at their campsites. Oftentimes these places are in remote areas and not easily accessible. Therefore, plastic waste do not get collected for a long time or not at all.

Future of plastics:

·       Surely plastics play an important role in our lives. Therefore, scientists are attempting to make plastics safer and more sustainable. Scientists are developing bioplastics, which are made from plant crops instead of fossil fuels. The goal is to create substances that are more environmentally friendly than conventional plastics. They are also trying to make plastics truly biodegradable which makes their recycling more efficient. Another goal is to develop a process that converts plastics back into the fossil fuels from which they were derived from.

·      Scientists at the Earth Engineering Center (EEC|CCNY) at the Grove School of Engineering of the City College of New York say that plastic waste can effectively be converted into usable fuel and energy rather than being dumped in a landfill or the ocean. These researchers found that the addition of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) to a chemical recycling process known as gasification results in the production of crude oil-based fuel. It also reduces pollution, both plastic and emissions, in contrast to traditional methods of disposing of plastic waste, such as incineration or dumping. Exciting news, isn’t it?

We all recognize that plastics are not perfect but that they are an important and necessary part of our future. And, given the rapid rate at which scientists all over Earth are trying to solve the plastic problem, one can be hopeful for a successful ending to this very sad story.

Some Ways You Can Help Reduce Plastic Pollution:

·      Buy reusable water bottles

·      Participate in ocean and land cleanups

·      Invest in eco-friendly products and toys like the ones we, PETAL Wildlife, make!

·      Use sustainable, compostable, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging and food containers as much as possible

OCG saving the ocean. Photo Credit: Wix Media

#EarthDay #Plastics #Ocean #Wildlife #Conservation

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