Plastic Pollution in Arizona and Recycling Measures
Arizona, with its relatively prosperous manufacturing sector, faces a number of potential pollution challenges. On top of that, it has to deal with a slew of international issues, including carbon emissions and the need to switch to renewable energy.
The issue chosen for this lecture is also global in scope even though it manifests itself at a more micro level. It’s the plastic waste that accumulates over the state, causing health problems for people and ecological disasters for wildlife. In order to assess the severity of the problem and plan an appropriate response, it is crucial to learn more about its causes and extent.
Causes of Plastic Pollution
Many environmental problems are attributable to enterprises, whose industrial operations generate garbage that is improperly processed and then released into the environment. Due to the manner in which the material is utilised, plastic pollution is typically not a significant concern. Packaging is the most common form of waste, which businesses want to reduce to save money.
However, many consumer goods, such as beverages and processed meals, are packaged in plastic containers that are useless once opened. In addition, single-use bags are often composed of plastic and are by definition thrown after use. As a result, the majority of plastic pollution is caused by human activities.
In the end, only 9 percent of all plastic waste generated in the United States is recycled. This is primarily due to a lack of sufficient facilities and a disregard for a recycling culture. Without the latter, there would not be sufficient demand to produce the former.
As it stands, many individuals do not perceive the benefit of separating their waste to be commensurate with the work required to do so, and many avoid waste disposal areas altogether and litter elsewhere. It should also be mentioned that plastic bags have a tendency to be light and are readily blown away by the wind if they are not correctly fastened, which occurs frequently.
Most individuals are aware of the negative consequences plastic may have on wildlife. Animals may mistake it for food or consume contaminated food, causing their digestive tracts to become clogged with indigestible debris and starvation. In addition, plastic tends to concentrate other toxins surrounding it, resulting in wildlife-harming concentrations.
Microplastics are ingested by humans in a variety of ways, such as in drinking water, but the resulting health implications are currently unknown (Rhodes, 2018). Plastics do not degrade well, with polystyrene in particular requiring up to 500 years to decompose, assuming it ever decomposes at all, which is not guaranteed (Wildlife over waste, n.d.). Consequently, if they are not treated correctly, the problems will become significantly worse over time.
There are a variety of methods for assessing the severity of the plastic waste problem, both in terms of production and results. Government authorities should have access to statistics on plastic usage in the state, and recycling companies likely offer paperwork on the amount of waste they have processed.
By subtracting the second number from the first, it is possible to gain a general sense of how many pollutants were produced over a specific time frame. Once released, plastics tend to travel through the ground into the water (Mateyo et al., 2016); hence, collecting samples of both and analysing them can assist determine the present severity of the problem. Long-term evaluation of the effects of plastic can be conducted by monitoring wildlife populations and considering the possibility for disease and mortality caused by the material.
Prohibiting some of plastic’s applications is the simplest, albeit not the simplest, method for tackling the problem of increasing plastic in the environment. However, this alternative is likely to be faced with strong opposition from both the general public and enterprises that rely heavily on plastic, as a result, other options should also be considered.
The circular economy, in which trash is recycled and reused to the greatest extent feasible, is a potential solution to the problem, but it requires large expenditures and technological advancement. Increasing people’s knowledge of plastic pollution and persuading them to behave more ethically is currently the most viable option, albeit it will take significant work.
Local governments are able to prohibit the use of plastic. They are most frequently applied to plastic bags, despite the availability of alternatives made of paper and various textiles. 150 California cities and counties have implemented such a ban, resulting in a 72% decrease in plastic bag trash between 2010 and 2017.
As with many unilateral government actions, however, such restrictions are connected with a wide range of issues, which has slowed their acceptance. Notably, the Arizona state government has prohibited local restrictions on plastic bags, as have Idaho, Michigan, and Missouri (Percival et al., 2019). Therefore, this approach is currently infeasible, and more acceptable alternatives must be identified.
Recycling and the Circular Economy
As knowledge of the risks of conventionally used plastics rises, scientists and businesses are researching methods for manufacturing polymers that do not share the same concern. Consideration is being given to plastics that can decompose rapidly in natural environments and, as a result, eliminate the problem of buildup once cost-effective production methods are developed.
Additionally, improved methods for decomposing plastics, such as using a specific microbe, are being explored (Rhodes, 2018). This research leads to the circular economy, where the majority of trash is recycled and returned to the system, hence lowering pollution in a cost-effective manner. The EU intends to build such a framework by 2030, however present technology only provides partial improvements and not a comprehensive system.
It is still possible to persuade individuals to avoid plastic pollution, despite the fact that imposing bans may not be well-received by communities and lawmakers. If individuals comprehend the consequences of their behaviour, they will be less inclined to litter and choose alternatives to plastic packaging (Rhodes, 2018).
Moreover, if communities are made aware of the plastic pollution problems they face and their negative effects, they will be more amenable to alternative approaches to addressing the issue. In addition to its direct effects on pollution, awareness can therefore act as a catalyst for the development of remedies.
In most situations, plastic pollution is not readily obvious until it reaches an alarming level, such as in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, the invisibility of the problem does not indicate that it does not exist, especially in the case of plastic, which does not biodegrade.
As a result, if the issue is not handled, it will grow to the point where it begins to significantly impact people’s lives. Consequently, no comprehensive and generally applicable solutions to plastic pollution have been devised as of yet. As a result, it is advisable to combine existing strategies with the most recent technological advancements to obtain the best results and avoid the problem from escalating.
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