The world’s first Earth Day was in 1970. The passing of fifty years has increased awareness of pollution and resulted in some improvement, though plastic pollution as a whole remains a major issue in environmentalism. 

Plastic is one of the most destructive pollutants; its existence dates back to 1862 when Alexander Parkes revealed what is considered the first plastic product. It was based on cellulose. In 1907, another advancement was made by Leo Baekeland who based his plastic on a fossil fuel waste product of coal. In the 1940s, plastic became an important part of the World War II effort. By the 1970s, scientists were beginning to be concerned about the effect of plastic on the environment.

In 1979, plastics became part of the American landscape with the introduction of plastic bags. In the 1990s, cosmetics began to use plastic microbeads. By 2002, the honeymoon was over when Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags because it caused problems with drainage during a flood. The fight against plastic pollution continued when microbeads in cosmetics were banned by The Netherlands. There is more information on the history of plastic pollution in an article in EcoWatch – Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life.

Plastic is harmful to the planet’s environment and its inhabitants. It can cripple, maim, and kill whether it is eaten or becomes entrapped in or on a body. Plastic contains pollutants that are harmful. When ingested, these poisonous chemicals cause damage.

Plastic makes its way to the oceans of the world where it causes environmental harm. By 2014, scientists determined the oceans contained more than 240,000 tons of plastic debris made up of more than five trillion pieces of plastic. Much of the pollution is in the form of microplastics that are not visible to the naked eye. They identified five areas where large masses of plastic waste were floating near the surface. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive collection of floating refuse, was discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore. More information on the harmful effects of plastic on the environment can be found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Cleaning up the environment is expensive and challenging, but decreasing and, ideally, eliminating the widespread use of single-use plastic is critical if the damage is to be reduced.