Trashing Our Future

The worlds issue with pollution and how we can help.


Kristen Gallagher, Staff Writer

In this fast paced world, billions of single use plastics and glasses are produced every day. From food packaging to storage containers, plastic is the most popular material in the world. Although it’s convenient, cheap, and easy to use, it causes much more harm than good. With air pollution from burning plastics and releasing dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere and land/water pollution from improper disposal methods, these products are taking over our world. If we keep up our poor habits, we won’t have much time left with a healthy planet. Here’s some more information and how we can help. 


The easiest and most accessible method is recycling. Despite this being a fantastic solution to our problem, it still has its issues. Only 5% of plastics and 31% of glasses are recycled. While the issue seems like it’s rooted from individual people choosing not to recycle, it’s a larger issue than that. Recently, the option of recycling has been taken away from countless numbers of Americans. Even people with the option available have been slacking due to the lack of convenient access to recycling. Products that are put into recycling are often thrown into landfills or burned, causing more pollution, because of unclean items. If the component is dirty, it cannot be recycled due to the risk of contamination. On top of those issues, glass and plastic products are being produced at a much faster rate than they’re being recycled. 


Although the damage done to the atmosphere is not irreversible, it seems nearly impossible, especially with the lack of effort to change our harmful ways. Solid waste is known to contribute directly to greenhouse gas emissions. I’m fairly certain that we’ve all heard the term greenhouse gasses before, but what are they really? Greenhouse gasses are produced through burning fossil fuels, chemical reactions, industrial leaks, and like mentioned previously, solid waste. After being created, it is released into the atmosphere and creates a layer that traps heat from escaping Earth. The extra heat left behind reflects back towards the Earth and contributes to global warming and climate change. In simple terms, the gas lets sunlight through, but traps the heat produced inside; like a greenhouse. 


Similarly to greenhouse gasses, mostly everyone is aware of climate change. Around 30 years ago, this change was just discovered and was in control due to its slow spread of impact. Unfortunately, it’s harming Earth at a faster rate than ever. Because of increasing temperatures, 150 billion tons of arctic ice is melting per year as shown in a 2019 study. I tried doing the math to figure out how much that is each day but I’m barely passing geometry so maybe I’ll leave that to someone else to solve. I think global warming and pollution is one of the only things more serious than my inability to do math. 


Not only is climate change destroying the homes of millions of Arctic animals (along with animals from other climates), it’s also significantly increasing sea level. Higher sea levels from destroying one group of animals’ habitat is causing the loss of others. With higher sea levels comes erosion of beaches and the flooding of wetlands and marshes. The intensity of coastal storms also increases. 


So how can you help? It’s easy to say you’re just one person and that your individual efforts won’t make a difference, but a single human’s actions are everything. See litter while you’re outside? Pick it up and put it in the garbage. Can’t find a trash can? Hold onto it until you do. Have the option of recycling? Do it, and make sure to clean out your waste so it can actually be repurposed. One of my personal favorite activities is picking up trash at the beach; and no, I’m not just saying that to sound quirky and cool. Across the world, places like beaches are the most littered areas because there’s trash coming from the land and washing up onto shore. Grab a reusable bag (and some gloves if you get grossed out easily), take a walk down the shore and pick up all the litter you see. This is fantastic for the environment, and you can get a nice tan while you’re at it. Maybe it’s the people pleaser in me, but not a lot of things feel better than seeing a clean beach and knowing that other people can enjoy it. It’s also good if you like praise from strangers. An odd motivator, but whatever works for you. 


With crisis after crisis being caused by pollution, it’s time to put an end to the carelessness of our treatment towards Earth. Sure, this article isn’t going to re-freeze all the lost parts of the arctic or repair the hole in our ozone layer, but it needs to be talked about more. Hopefully this information can help you work towards restoring our planet, or even simply just hold onto that plastic water bottle until you find a recycling bin. Even the small actions help in the effort to get back a healthy Earth.