Plastic Contamination: A Social-Cultural Issue

Plastic Contamination: A Social-Cultural Issue

People and businesses use plastic items every day for convenience, but a social-cultural study proves that using too much plastic has negative effects on people and their communities. It is important to explore the diverse perspectives on plastic waste to ultimately determine whether the fan-favorite material is worth the social-cultural burden on humans. Banning plastic cutlery and bags makes areas cleaner and healthier especially in low-income areas where trash clean-ups are rarely done. However, people could struggle to afford plastic-free options, and banning plastic packaging at the corporate level could lead to increased prices of items sold. When it comes to social and cultural aspects of an issue, humanitarians must look at the impact of the people, the welfare of adults, children, and all individuals of a community, by ensuring that everyone is equal in a society that makes up for a more equal world.

Everyone uses plastic in some way: for instance, in car seats, computers, and home decorations. Eve Andrews, climate change researcher, writes “plastic causes harm to the human body… Studies have shown that small traces of plastic are found in the human food chain.”

To end the problem of plastic overuse, cities could cut off the sale of plastic cutlery and plastic bags both in stores and restaurants. Another solution would let families continue to use plastic but ban companies from providing plastic in their shipping and packaging. This would hold online retailers responsible for their increase in plastic waste.

Lessening the use of plastic location-wide would mean placing bans on certain plastic goods. Many businesses have shortened their plastic footprint already by no longer offering single-use cutlery and switching to eco-friendly packaging alternatives.

Congresspeople and lobbying groups are working to place bills that will reduce single-use packaging and products by 75% and eliminate all single-use foodservice products. If approved, the bill would create better consumer choices, reduce litter clean-up and waste control costs, and improve the health of California’s people, wildlife, and environment. Californians recognized the problem and are currently working on a solution that benefits all groups. The state of New York has also limited its plastic usage by providing free reusable bags to people in low-and moderate-income households.

Although some cities can provide financially and environmentally friendly products, not all are willing or able. In such places, low-income communities get left behind in the process to purchase plastic-free items. Further, even in cities that remove the use of plastics, areas are still far from plastic-free. It is critical when thinking about the idea of banning plastic in cities to think of the positive and negative effects laws have on people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

For decades, plastic-making companies have been placing the blame of plastic contamination on the individual. When in reality these companies fail to see that their non-biodegradable and environmentally-toxic product is the root cause of the spread to begin with. An investigation found that hundreds of thousands of tons of U.S. plastics are being shipped every year to poorly maintained developing countries around the globe like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Vietnam. These plastics were coming straight from containers that were claimed to be “recycling bins” in the U.S. but are really just spots to throw waste that would just be shipped to underdeveloped countries causing more waste on their streets, water systems, and food chains.

For decades, plastic-making companies have been placing the blame of plastic contamination on the individual. When in reality these companies fail to see that their non-biodegradable and environmentally-toxic product is the root cause of the spread to begin with.

Banning retailers and e-commerce businesses from using plastic packaging in their products helps to reduce the world’s plastic footprint. This option still gives access to plastic for individuals that need it but gets rid of plastic for larger corporations that can go for alternatives. Online stores deliver billions of plastic-filled packages, yearly. Companies that ship plastic at high amounts should begin to think of different, cleaner ways to ship in order to reduce plastic contamination.

By banning companies from using plastic in their shipments and on their products that already come with packaging, or that do not even need packaging to begin with, society can use plastic for more important needs – particularly in lower-income communities and those with health conditions. Communities could also spend time cleaning up the plastic that is already left behind and not have to worry about more plastic being added. Fortunately, this process would still allow consumers to use plastic-made items, benefiting those in low-income communities and people with health conditions. By taking this action, those with allergen risks, mobility challenges, motor-planning delay, and who struggle to afford reusable products can continue to use single-waste products.

If you are interested in taking action on this issue, here are two ways to get involved in Santa Clara County. Join Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful in their free community trash pick up days! Or if you’re looking for reduced-rate recycling programs, sign up with GreenTeam to get your waste picked up for reasonable prices!

By Miguel Ambriz, Cristo Rey San Jose High School Intern

All photos provided by Canva