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Single Use Plastics and Our Earth

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Elizabethtown chapter.


A pretty common phrase heard when referring to single use plastics in recent culture is “Save the Turtles”. The “Save the Turtles” uprising came from a viral video where marine biologists were pulling a straw out of a sea turtle’s nostril. This lead to a rise of metal and other types of straws, and brought awareness for the effects that single use plastics are having on our planet. However, metal straws are not enough to stop the environmental effects single use plastics are having on the Earth. Plastic straws make up only .03% of the ocean’s plastics but stopping plastic straw use or switching to metal straws is a start to reducing plastic use overall in the future. There are many other contributors to the plastic problem in the ocean. In fact, discarded fishing lines and nets actually make up more than half of the Pacific Ocean “Garbage Patch”. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is the largest collection of plastics within an ocean and is in the North Pacific Ocean. It’s said to 79,000 tonnes of plastic and is estimated to have 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. 


Not only are single use plastics in the oceans a problem, but collecting plastics in a landfill has just as many detrimental effects to the environment. Since plastics take hundreds of years to decompose, landfills overflow and in the U.S. alone there are 2,000 overflowing landfills. Some plastics can cause chemicals to leach through the ground or infect water sources. There are so many landfills because between 1950 and 2015 only 9% of plastic waste was recycled. Thankfully, in 2015 it is estimated that 20% of plastics were recycled, which isn’t a lot but is a very important step in the right direction. Besides recycling plastic waste can either be trashed or incinerated. Recycling is unanimously the best decision; however, plastic can only be recycled a few times before it doesn’t have the recycling quality anymore. The other options are trashing the plastic waste, which leads to the overflow of landfills, and incineration, which causes air pollution. Incinerating, or burning, plastic waste is the second best option next to recycling but still has very bad side effects. When plastics are burned they give off high emissions of Carbon Dioxide which is a high contributor to global warming. Additionally, burning plastics releases many types of toxic gasses into the air. The gasses can be toxic to both humans and the environment. 


After all this information, it’s easy to feel helpless and doomed in a sense. Like most movements and global problems an important step to stopping, fixing, or improving a problem is to have the government or major companies make a change. As an example, to help with the plastic in the ocean the fishing industry can change their rules and regulations on fishline nets and lines. Individually, you can cut out using single use plastics wherever possible or use plastic alternatives. Abstinence is truly the best way to avoid anything and this applies to plastic just as much as pregnancy. Not using packaged food or products isn’t easy but it’s a change that can and should be made. Foods like fruits and vegetables do not need to be packaged and buying non-packaged ones can help decrease the production of said packaging. Another very common single use plastic is plastic bag usage for almost everything. For such a huge problem there is a very easy solution and not an expensive one. Simply using reusable bags or tote bags can help reduce the use of plastic bags and help with the plastic problem. This is our planet and it’s our job to keep it clean and healthy. We’ve already caused enough damage but now it’s our job to fix it before we lose our planet altogether. 

Lauren Closs

Elizabethtown '23

Lauren Closs is an Fine Art and Spanish language major at Elizabethtown college. She participates in Wicca and practices witchcraft. She also enjoys writing about a multitude of genres.