Researchers at the University of Delaware are working to find out how tiny bits of plastic pollution impact the creatures in the Delaware Bay. Jenna Miller, The News Journal
A practical and more efficient approach to how Tennessee recycles will lead to great change toward our plastic pollution problem.
One of the concerns over pollution is the high usage of plastic. Lots of everyday items that we use contain plastic, and it has become a commonplace commodity in almost everything that we do. We carry food in plastic bags, drink from plastic containers, and drive around in large vehicles that are made largely with plastic. Plastic was created to be cheap and durable, and it managed to achieve that goal.
While it’s good for the consumer that plastic is a durable substance and can last a long time, It also has a downside. When we throw out plastic items, those plastics can take several years to degrade.
This takes up a lot of real estate in landfills. If disposed of improperly, it can take a toll on our beautiful Smoky Mountains as well and negatively impact tourism. Even after plastics degrade, they are still found in very small trace amounts in the areas where they degraded.
Plastic pollution is a problem in Tennessee.
Many people in our state are under the impression that plastic pollution has no effect on them. Scientific studies have shown that plastic pollution has a large impact on us here in the Volunteer State. Environmental scientists Yooeun Chae and Youn-Joo An have found that the degradation of plastic can negatively impact the soil that many of our wildlife need to live.
Plastic pollution can also affect freshwater ecosystems like the several rivers across Tennessee. Several environmental scientists have also found that plastic can be found working its way up through the soil to the very food that we eat. These plastics that get in our food sources can contain harmful chemicals that will hurt us.
The fact that plastics take so long to degrade and that they do not even degrade fully does not just affect the fish and turtles out in the ocean, but has a direct effect on us as well.
Plastic bags are not the only problem.
Now that we know that Tennesseans are directly impacted by the effects of plastic pollution, we need to take action to prevent any further damages. Our state legislature has already toyed with the idea of enacting plastic legislation in the past, but wrongly backed down on going forward with it. The main way to handle this is to do what other states have already started doing.
California has enacted a statewide ban on plastic bags. This ban effectively made it to where people could not get single-use plastic bags from stores the visited. Instead, stores had to sell affordable and subsidized multiple use bags to their customers. A similar type of legislation is likely going to be enacted in New York as well. By limiting single-use plastic usage, it will effectively cut down on plastic pollution across the state.
Tennessee needs to further emphasize recycling as a means of waste disposal. Actions need to be taken to incentivize and encourage recycling across the state. People should not have to pay to recycle, as it creates an unnecessary barrier to doing the right thing. Recycling should also be taught and encouraged at schools as well, in order to build our children to do what is good for everyone.
Jonathan Baumgartner is a student of Political Science at the University of Tennessee.
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