Many factors contribute to air pollution: mineral oil burning, chemical pesticide emissions, now plastic pollution. But how does plastic cause air pollution?
The World Air Quality Index keeps an updated, real-time map of our global air quality, and does not look good. Today, pollution is a major cause of death and disease in the environment, with less than nine million deaths worldwide in 2015. Of the 9 million people who died, two-thirds were directly linked to air pollution, identified as the greatest environmental threat to human health.
Here are 4 main ways in which plastic causes air pollution
1. Release of Green Plastic Goods: Oil
Most plastics are made from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, which emit toxic air when released from our planet. Oil and gas drilling removes large amounts of pollutants from the air, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and organic compounds. Oil refineries convert crude oil into a multitude of products, including plastic, and require a few functional layers that emit a lot of pollutants that make our atmosphere smoky, hazier, and more toxic, in addition to fueling global warming.
2. Impact of the Renewable Energy Industry
The recycling of plastic today is a major step in preventing the production of virgin plastic, thereby reducing our impact on the environment. Throwing our plastic bottles and packing them in a recycling bin makes us feel good. But recycling of plastic can be problematic if it does not follow strict environmental and labor standards.
Did you know that more than half of our so-called “recycled” plastics are shipped overseas? Unfortunately, many illegal and recyclable sites in South and Southeast Asia fail to have safe working conditions and pollution control measures. Lian Jiao is a Chinese city that has become a dumping ground for toxic waste recycling of plastic in the West. Workers melted plastics without wearing any kind of protective clothing and air in this small town thickened by plastic, toxic fumes. Like the production of virgin plastics, recycling of plastics has the same role in releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere.
In 2017 China announced that it no longer wanted to be a “garbage dump” for everyone, as it also reused 50% of the world’s plastic products. As a result, Western countries are confused about what to do with the huge amount of waste they produce each year, and how to dispose of it, leading us to the next way plastics affect our air quality: fire emissions.
3. Burning Plastic Items
Slowly decaying plastic prices are a major obstacle to the rapid globalization of the earth. Researchers estimate that more than 40% of the world’s garbage is burned. Burning plastic and other pollutants releases hazardous substances such as heavy metals, persistent pollutants (POPs), and other toxic chemicals into the air and into the remains of ash ash.
These chemicals are linked to asthma formation, endocrine disorders and cancer. In addition, POPs surround our planet with air currents, which means that burned plastic in Germany could easily affect air quality in Italy. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastic burning is the worst way to end plastic exposure in terms of climate change.
4. Plastic Power to “Work Without Gas”
Chemical phthalates are packaged in plastic, providing structural properties such as flexibility and heat resistance. Unfortunately, they are also endocrine disorders linked to many health problems such as low testosterone levels, decreased sperm count and reduced female fertility.