Plastic pollution is an anthropogenic form of environmental degradation, that occurs when large quantities of plastic material are released into soil and water, thereby rendering these media impure or unsafe. This article discusses plastic pollution definition, mechanism, and significance, as outlined below;
Plastic Pollution Definition: 5 Ways to Define Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution is the hazardous release of plastic materials into the environment.
The plastic pollution definition can be rephrased to include the mechanism by which it occurs, as shown below;
Plastic pollution is the degradation of the environment by plastic materials, through chemical release, greenhouse emission, soil contamination or water clogging, among others
Another perspective from which we can outline plastic pollution definition is the perspective of ecology;
Plastic pollution is the introduction of plastic materials into the ecosystem, in such a manner that effects the equilibrium of the system, health of organisms, and the cycling of bioenergy across the trophic levels of the energy pyramid.
With regards to the natural ecosystem, plastic pollution arises mainly due to the slow and inefficient rate of biodegradation, which allows synthetic plastics to cause long-term pollution . This problem can be mitigated by replacing synthetic plastics with biodegradable plastics.
As stated above, biodegradable plastics represent a shift in the direction of environmental sustainability, since they can be broken down through biodegradation, into simpler and less-harmful products that can be safely assimilated by the environment.
Below is an alternative plastic pollution definition, which is based on a circular economic perspective;
Plastic pollution is a form of environmental degradation resulting from poor resource conservation and waste management in the plastic industry, leading to the introduction of harmful quantities of plastic materials into soil and water.
Lastly, plastic pollution definition is outlined based on its effects, as follows;
Plastic pollution is the release of plastic materials into the environment in large quantities, resulting in soil degradation, marine pollution, infrastructural damage, and the exacerbation of natural hazards like flooding.
Mechanism of Plastic Pollution
Plastic can cause pollution of the environment through accumulation and decomposition, both of which lead to ecologic imbalance, physicochemical alteration, and toxin emission.
1). Plastic Release
Plastic pollution is only possible when plastic materials have been released into the environment.
The release of plastics as waste into the environment is a major environmental problem that is facilitated by linear economic practices like single-use.
Plastic release occurs in large-scale, including millions of tons of plastics from various sources and industries which are released into the environment annually .
2). Plastic Accumulation
Plastic accumulation results from continuous release of plastic materials into the environment.
These materials may accumulate in soil or water bodies.
Some of the most common forms of plastic accumulation include marine and coastal accumulation.
3). Plastic Contamination
Contamination occurs when plastics have accumulated in a medium.
It signifies a change in the physicochemical composition and ecologic equilibrium of the medium, such that it loses its purity.
Severe contamination is described as plastic pollution. It often involves clogging, oxygen deficiency, and partial breakdown of plastics to release ‘microplastics’ and toxic chemical byproducts.
In aquatic systems, the mode and severity of plastic pollution depend on the chemical composition and physical characteristics (like size, density and buoyancy) of the plastics, as well as the physicochemical characteristics (like temperature and pH) of the water body.
Plastic pollution can also occur in the course of efforts to control plastic waste. This could be in the form of greenhouse emissions during incineration, or byproduct release, during waste-to-energy conversion of plastic materials.
Significance of Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution is important because it has significant effects on the environment, economy and society. These effects include water and soil pollution, unsustainable economy, and health problems.
Plastic pollution is the release and accumulation of plastics in soil and water, leading to a decline in environmental quality and safety.
The mechanism of plastic pollution comprises of;
1. Plastic Release
2. Plastic Accumulation
3. Plastic Contamination
Plastic pollution is important because it affects the environment, economy and society.
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