Single Use PlasticsPosted: June 24, 2024

The Why of Tackling Canadian Plastics Pollution :

Tackling plastic pollution in Canada sounds like a big undertaking, and yet, it is absolutely necessary to address for three reasons: First, the very existence of plastics pose significant environmental and health risks. Second, Canada’s close proximity to the oceans mean that plastics pose a public crisis. Third, by not tackling plastic pollution, we let our legacy to be the ones who selfishly condemned future generations.

Risk

For Millennials, plastic is everywhere from Starbucks receipts, to take out containers, our phone and laptop cases, sharpies, highlighters and more. However, despite plastics being so common in our daily lives, plastic poses negative consequences to our environment and health. Plastic originates from “…crude oil, a non-renewable resource extracted from the earth”. [1].

Plastic is inherently environmentally destructive for three main reasons. First, the oil extraction process is environmentally destructive since it involves excessively burning greenhouse gases. Second, when plastics are formed from oil, toxic chemicals are emitted into the environment, which we are constantly breathing in. The consequences of both of these factors are that they contribute to rising world temperatures, which we need to limit for the sake of keeping humanity alive. Third, since plastics take hundreds of years to decompose, animals often eat them since they tend to be mistaken for food. In fact, “Eighty-seven per cent of our birds in Arctic Canada have ingested plastics of some sort. That’s similar to areas across the North Atlantic,”. While these dangers may seem abstract, plastic can have unforeseen consequences on our planet if we do not act quickly – and if left unchecked – can ravage our planet.

However, if these facts do not convince you that plastics are an issue, perhaps two significant dangers to you will.

First, the additives used to make plastic contain massive amounts of carcinogens such as BPA (Diaz 90). Multiple studies show that these substances are linked to cancer, obesity, and other diseases. Since a large amount of our products are plastic such as bags, straws, containers, wrapping, and cutlery, and bottles, we are constantly increasing our risk of disease[2][3].

Second, plastics pose a significant public health risk. Famed author Rick Smith writes that plastics continue to integrate into nano-plastics, smaller, and smaller and never disintegrating. They are in every species and virtually every item in the planet. From the sharpie we use, to every time meat is consumed, we are constantly consuming it, and therefore increasing our chance of disease.

Oceans and a Public Health Crisis

What makes plastics exposure especially unnerving is that if we do not better protect our waters from plastic dumping and clean up our oceans, we risk a public risk for our very survival. [4]

In turn, allowing plastics in the oceans mean that we risk disease and killing our largest source of oxygen. In the case of disease, if marine life consumes micro-plastics, and we then consume it, all the toxic chemicals and carcinogens are transferred into our body (Smith et al 378-379; Circular Economy of Plastics [5]). This increases our chances of acquiring disease transferred via plastic. In the case of oxygen supply, if we take the example of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in which a large amount of the Pacific Ocean is covered in plastic pollution, the plastic blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the ocean. This means less photosynthesis conducted by phytoplankton, which translates into less oxygen for humans. As BC is surrounded by the Pacific, Canadians are severely impacted by plastic pollution in the ocean because of the reducing oxygen. I hope by now that I have convinced you that plastics do pose significant threat to Canada and Canadians, and as a result, they should be banned for their life-threatening properties.

It is these combined environmental and health issues of plastics that The United Nations recently declared that plastics pollution is the “second-most ominous threat to the global environment, after climate change.”

Why Me?

As once said in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:”Rebellions are built on hope”. – and because they united under a common banner, the Rebellion eventually defeated the Galactic Empire. The same logic applies here. If we stay silent, then change will not happen. If we could trust politicians, scientists and businesses to solve this issue, then they would have done so already. I feel that I have to do my part in this fight. Would you like to tell your kids that we let humanity destroy the Earth because we could not stand up to take a stand? I am trying to do my part to try and take action against single use plastics because it is our own and kids’ future at stake – what are you doing?

Click here to see what I am doing

[1] Hannah M. Diaz, “Plastic: Breaking down the Unbreakable,” Florida Coastal Law Review 19, no. 1 (Fall 2018): 85-114

[2] Prata, Joana Correia. “Airborne Microplastics: Consequences to Human Health?” Environmental Pollution 234 (November 2018): 115-26. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2017.11.043.

[3] A CIRCULAR ECONOMY FOR PLASTICS

[4] Jason MacLean, “Will We Ever Have Paris: Canada’s Climate Change Policy and Federalism 3.0,” Alberta Law Review 55, no. 4 (2018): 889-932

[5] Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, Vol. 364, No. 1526, Plastics, the Environment and Human Health (Jul. 27, 2009), pp. 2127-2139