By TTF Intern, Mary Satterthwaite
You see them in stores, on streets, and in our streams: plastic bottles. At TTF cleanups, we pick up countless plastic bottles from our sidewalks and waterways. We remind people that plastic bottles and bags are harmful to our environment. How much harm can they really cause?
The answer may come as a shock! What has been marketed as a convenient alternative in our busy lives has become one of the most destructive forces in the natural world. Plastic bottles contaminate water and put the lives of other living things in danger.
We use over 2,000,000 plastic water bottles every 5 minutes in the United States alone. It is impossible to imagine the quantity at the end of just one month or year.
Where does all this plastic go?
We ship some of it overseas to be recycled. Quite a bit ends up in landfills. But more than you can ever imagine ends up as plastic pollution, eventually making its way into our waterways.
These waterways include small streams and rivers, like the ones near us in Philadelphia, to the vast seas and oceans. The oceans are home to humans, animals, and marine life. One of the largest collections of trash in the Ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch Currents
There are not only large piece of plastic that are consumed by animals or that entangle them, obstructing photosynthetic processes of algae and other small organism.
But there are also bits called microplastics that are so small, they can’t always be seen with the naked eye. These microplastics obstruct sunlight for photosynthetic organisms, disturbing the marine food chain.
In the end, the contamination of water hurts all living things. More and more people are testing positive for BPA, an industrial chemical found in plastics. Industrial chemicals such as BPA are now being leaked into our water through plastic waste causing many potential health risks.
This great accumulation of plastic in our oceans causes much more than just environmental and health issues. The recent crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 into the Pacific Ocean is a good example of how plastic causes aircraft crash and ship wreck investigation problems. Due to the accumulation of marine debris, it was almost impossible for search teams to find actual evidence of any aircraft remains.
Here in the TTF Watershed we can help close to home and distant issues of contamination by reducing our use of plastic bottles and other plastic disposables, including plastic bags. This will make a difference for our drinking water and the health of people and oceans around the world.
Feeling inspired? Join us at our upcoming MLK Day cleanup in Tacony Creek Park:
Watch for Plastic Problems Part 2!