While plastic has given much to modern society, like inexpensive products and durable packaging, it's also had disastrous consequences.
A recent study from Georgia University found that 18 billion pounds of plastic are dropped into the ocean each year. This has resulted in massive islands of waste forming at sea that destroy aquatic life and poison the water. One such island in the Pacific now equals the size of Texas.
The chemicals in plastic often enter into fish's stomachs, making them potentially harmful to the animals that eat them, including people. "I don’t think we should be waiting for a key finding of whether or not fish are hazardous to eat,” says biologist Richard Thompson. “We have enough evidence to act.”
Georgia University reports that only a fifth of all plastic is ever recycled. The problem lies mostly in developing nations but extends globally. Major cities often create landfills by waterways where plastic blows out onto the water and eventually out to sea.
“Everyone is looking for a sexy answer," Ted Siegler, a resource economist, remarks. “The reality is, we need to just collect the trash."
Hope lies ahead, as countries develop more efficient systems of recycling, but in the meantime, Mother Nature is left paying the lofty price.