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Plastic was first discovered in the mid 1800s with the earliest example in 1855 when parkesine or celluloid was invented. Then came the invention of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and a breakthrough by Belgian-American chemist in 1907 that allowed the first real synthetic, mass-produced plastic. This material has since become widely used in a variety of applications including kitchenware, synthetic clothing, food packaging or furniture. The world produces 380 million tons of plastic every year.

While there are many different types of plastic, most are made from a basis of crude oil and natural gas – both of which are finite resources associated with environmental damage. While there has been some innovation in creating compostable plastics from potatoes or corn starch, most of the plastic being used in the world is made from fossil fuels.

Companies use plastic for their products or packaging because it’s durable and cheap to make and has desirable traits such as its versatility and durability. But unfortunately, it’s harmful impact on the earth is life changing. 

While there are many different types of plastic, most are made from a basis of crude oil and natural gas – both of which are finite resources associated with environmental damage.

Over the past century, billions of tons of plastic have been produced but research shows that only 9% has been recycled. There are 6 types of plastics some of which can’t be recycled at all while others can only be downcycled – recycled two to three times during its lifetime with each cycle producing a lower quality than its previous version.

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) 
  2. High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) 
  3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC – U) 
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
  5. Polypropylene (PP) 
  6. Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS) 

Of all plastics above only PETE, HDPE and LDPE can be recycled and others must be repurposed and reused in some other form. So, what happens with all this plastic we are creating? The vast majority, 79%, is accumulating in landfills and 12% is incinerated. This statistic does not even include all the plastic that is diverted from the landfill and ends up in our ocean and water ways.

Impact of Plastic on the Landfill

Plastic that ends up in our landfills will take 1,000 years to decompose. It’s a huge problem for our planet not only because it takes many years to dissolve but its presence in our landfills means we are using our land for garbage instead of for other purposes like green space. The reallocation of land use to accommodate garbage deprives humans of the benefits of nature. More trees and plants on the planet means healthier air to breathe because of their absorption of CO2 in our atmosphere.  

When plastics end up in the landfill, toxic substances such as methane are released in the air, the gases are absorbed into the soil and can potentially infiltrate and pollute our groundwater. Of the gases produced in landfills, ammonia, sulphides, methane and carbon dioxide are of most concern. Ammonia and hydrogen sulphide are responsible for most of the odors and pose serious health concerns. 

plastic pollution, landfill

Impact of Plastic on the Environment

How does plastic end up in the natural environment? Littering is only one of the reasons plastic ends up in our environment. Overflowing landfills can create an opportunity for rainwater and wind to carry plastic waste or microplastics into streams, rivers and through drains.  Microplastics are microscopic pieces of plastic which are released from discarded plastic and synthetic products and can easily pollute land, air and water. While most plastic on beaches accumulates in southeast Asia, in the ocean, it is creeping its way into most remote areas.

The impact of plastic on the environment can be devastating. Over one million marine animals die each year because of plastic debris in the ocean. Wildlife, especially in the sea, can be tangled up and injured with plastic products and can die when swallowed. Ingesting plastic – even microplastics – can be deadly to both humans and animals. It can block the animal’s digestive tract and can make its way through our water source to produce the same dangers to humans. 

The sad truth is that there’s much more plastic in the environment than we once thought. Every year, an estimated amount of 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our ocean on top of the 150 million metric tons already there.

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Ecofriendly Ways to Preserve the Planet

Thanks to scientific research, we are increasingly realizing what impact plastic has on the environment. This is leading to some changes, such as a ban on single-use plastics, more frequent use of reusable fabric bags and overall, positive action on the consumer level. We need to make more educated choices in what we use for everyday living. 

Because of plastics, we are risking the health of our planet and wildlife. Trees are being cut down to make space for landfills and oceans are being flooded by plastic materials. If we do not limit our consumption of plastic and change our behaviour, the impact will be greater for future generations. 

Choosing products made of biodegradable, ecofriendly materials such as bamboo, will help preserve the environment. Its versatility, durability and organic nature make it a perfect alternative to man-made, synthetic products. It’s a renewable resource that is friendly to mother nature and offers abundant health benefits to humans.

Learn more about biodegradable eco-friendly products for your home or business.


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2 thoughts on “The 5 Types of Plastic that Create a Negative Impact on the Environment

  • Ross ReichelFebruary 10, 2021 at 4:48 am

    This article is fantastic! It is appreciative how governments are putting their efforts to ensure the use of biodegradable plastic. We, as human beings, should try our best to sustain our wildlife and environment. It should not be an individual attempt but a collective one. Keep sharing such information!

  • Gloria Grant July 2, 2021 at 5:12 am

    You have an excellent grasp on the research data about the sustainability of our planet. Presenting such authentic information on environmental sustainability and biodegradable waste materials can surely incite exploration of further research data – just as I am going to do!

    Thanks for such a good piece!

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