Plastic became popular in the 50s for its indestructibility, which is why it now poses an overwhelming problem: estimates for the time it takes plastic to biodegrade range from 450 years to never. Instead of biodegrading, most plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics. Smaller doesn’t mean less threatening. These microplastics now show up in our food, in our water and in our air. The smaller they are, the more likely they are to break biological barriers and cause significant tissue damage.
Single use plastics symbolize the peak of throwaway culture, and the environment is paying the price. Items we use for minutes will outlive us by centuries, choking our oceans and waterways by the billions. This unrelenting waste impacts more than 1,200 wildlife species through entanglement or ingestion, often fatally. It leaks toxic chemicals into our soil and water, infiltrates animal tissue, and eventually enters our food chain. And it’s only getting worse. If we fail to make direct change, there could be more plastics in our oceans than fish within three decades.
Plastic can threaten our health not just in the form of pollution, but in its entire lifecycle. From the extraction of fossil fuels, to consumer use, to disposal, plastic poses distinct toxic risks to the people it touches. Numerous forms of cancer, birth defects, sensory issues, diabetes and more have been associated with the different stages in plastic’s lifecycle. And it’s not going anywhere: two-thirds of plastic ever produced remains in the environment.