Guyana has, over the years, been implementing laws (Regulations) to tackle the solid waste scourge, including the Litter Regulations of 2013 and the Expanded Polystyrene Regulations of 2015. The latest in these efforts is the impending ban on single-use plastic products, which is expected to come into force in 2021.
In our previous articles, we spoke about the ban itself, and offered alternatives that you can start to consider as we transition to a life with much less plastic. For many of us, environmental issues get our attention only when they have a direct impact on our health or immediate surroundings; so you might ask yourself, ‘Why should I care about a ban on single use plastics?’
According to quora.com, these are just some of the reasons why plastics are not the ideal material for the environment and humans.
• The processes of making, storing, disposing of, and just being around plastics can be extremely harmful to living things.
• Plastic is made from toxic compounds known to cause illness, and because it is meant for durability, it is not biodegradable.
Effects of plastic pollution:
• It upsets the Food Chain: Because it comes in sizes large and small, polluting plastics even affect the world’s tiniest organisms, such as plankton. When these organisms become poisoned due to plastic ingestion, problems are caused for the larger animals that depend on them for food. This can cause a whole slew of problems each step further along the food chain. Plus, it means that plastic are present in the fish that many people eat every day.
• Groundwater pollution: If you’ve ever seen a garbage dump, imagine what happens every time it rains; then imagine that being in your drinking water. This has had terrible consequences on many marine species, which can lead to consequences for those that eat fish and marine life for nutrients – including people.
• Land pollution: When plastic is dumped in landfills, it interacts with water and forms hazardous chemicals. When these chemicals seep underground, they degrade the water quality. Wind carries and deposits plastics from one place to another, increasing the land litter. Plastics can also get stuck on poles, traffic lights, trees, fences and towers among other places; and animals that may come in the vicinity might suffocate to death on them.
• Air pollution: Burning of plastics in the open air (a common practice in many parts of the world, including Guyana), leads to environmental pollution due to the release of poisonous chemicals. The polluted air, when inhaled by humans and animals, affects their health, and can cause respiratory problems.
. It kills animals: Despite countless TV ads over the years showing ducks or dolphins trapped in six-ring plastic can holders, these items are still used and discarded en masse each day. Whether because the mass of plastics has displaced animals or the related toxins have poisoned them, plastic pollution does a lot of damage to the world’s ecosystems.
• It is poisonous: Man makes plastics by an artificial process that uses a number of toxic chemicals. Therefore use of, and exposure to, plastics have been linked to a number of health concerns affecting people around the world.
• It is expensive: It costs millions of dollars each year to clean areas that have been exposed to plastics, not to mention the loss of the lives of plants, animals and people. As land becomes more valuable, just finding a place to put garbage is becoming a problem in many parts of the world.
• Plus, excess pollution has led to decreased tourism in affected areas, significantly impacting those economies.
In addition to the human health impacts and the damage to the natural environment, improper disposal of plastics also hurts our economy. Over the years, billions of dollars have been spent on cleaning drains and fixing drainage systems due to the plastic waste disposed, including the “Clean Up My Country Project”.
Further, as plastic does not biodegrade or break down in nature, when we send these items to the landfill, they take up space, shortening the lifespan of that landfill. The Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill already occupies 150 acres of land, which could have otherwise been used for housing or agriculture. At our current rate of consumption (for the areas that utilise the landfill) and our disposal practices, the lifespan of the landfill will be further reduced by a significant number of years.
You can share your ideas and questions by sending letters to: “Our Earth, Our Environment”, C/O ECEA Programme, Environmental Protection Agency, Ganges Street, Sophia, GEORGETOWN, or email us at: [email protected] or follow us on Facebook and Instagram