A recent UN report suggests that about 79% of the plastic ever made has ended up dumped, with hardly any reused or recycled. This indicates that most of the plastic ends up as plastic waste. Not only land sites but the oceans have also become major dumping sites for this waste. The mega scale of plastic waste can be easily analyzed by UN report which says, “The five trillion plastic bags consumed each year equaled nearly ten million plastic bags usage per minute. If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour.” This is a major concern because plastic may take thousands of years to decompose. A single Styrofoam cup may take up to 50 years to biodegrade whereas a plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose.

The horrific consequences of such environmental hazard are clear from the incident in Thailand where a whale died of swallowing 80 plastic bags. Such incidents should be an eye opener for all humanity because environmental hazards and their repercussions are not local issues. All the problems related to environment are indeed a global issue.

During the World Environmental Day (2018) plastic has been indicated as the greatest environmental threat to the globe by the United Nations. Mr Guterres (UN chief) particularly emphasised the harmful effects of plastic waste and called for serious initiatives to curb this environmental hazards. He said, “Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste. From remote islands, to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”

The damages caused by plastic waste are various and multifaceted. It affects plants, animals and human beings. Irresponsible dumping of plastic can result in clogging of waterways. The landfill dumping sites of plastic can interact with underground water causing poisoning of groundwater. It an also enhance breeding spaces of dangerous diseases. Moreover, inappropriate ways of burning plastics results in production of toxic fumes in the air which leads to high levels of air pollution. The most significant harmful impact of plastic waste is the killing of marine life. This waste not only effects marine life but reports suggest that it can in turn harm human beings through consumption of fish. According to the European Food Safety Authority there is an increased risk to human health and food safety "given the potential for micro-plastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish".

There are multiple initiatives that are being taken by various governments, non-governmental organisations and civil society to reduce plastic waste. However, the present conditions demand for more work to be done in this regard. In order to control any environmental hazard, it is integral that all members of the society play their part. There are three simple steps that can be taken by all individuals during their daily course of life which can significantly reduce waste.

1. Reduction in the usage of single use plastic items.

2. Avoid dumping of plastic waste especially near natural habitats such as beaches, oceans, parks, hilly areas etc.

3. Educate people in your surrounding particularly children about the dangerous results of plastic waste.

The words of UN chief Antonio Guterres that “we all have a role to play in protecting our only home” should be a food for thought for all. Let us decide to make small changes to our daily life style that can protect environment from horrible hazards. The small acts of protecting our environment will have far reaching impacts for the future generations to come. Our environment deserves to be loved and protected!