Our Infected Environment
Updated: Apr 4, 2019
While wondering down the streets of Cape Town, either walking through the neighborhood, to the shops, or exploring the city, one cannot help but notice the lost chip packets and plastic bags lingering on the roads instead of in the bins. The beaches are harboring forgotten waste, the forest floors are infested by lone wandering rubbish. Litter from tin cans to brown paper take away bags inhabit the environment around us, squished into the soil or clinging to the tar. Either way, the waste not thrown into bins literally lies waste to our Earth.
People litter all the time. The most common reasons simply being that people are lazy or hold a lack of respect. We do not think about what we are doing and how we are harming the environment when carelessly throwing non-biodegradable products out of our car windows or simply releasing the burden from our hands. The most common litter we see every day includes chip packets, plastic bags, plastic bottles and glass bottles. The materials used to create these vessels of produce often take years to degrade, and even once they have degraded, the material is highly toxic to the earth. Animals are highly effected by litter as it makes them very sick or kills them through physically choking them when mistaken as food, or through rapidly and harshly decreasing the quality of water, earth and air. A lot of money is spent cleaning up after others and this money could be better placed and more useful if it wasn’t used to lessen the litter.
Chip packets are everywhere. Once the bag has out lived its usefulness and no longer contains any edible content, it has run its course. However, this is not true. Nowhere near in fact. Chip packets are created from layers of polymer materials in order to: keep the moisture out of the bag to keep the food inside “fresh”, to keep the oil and grease confined to the chips themselves instead of seeping through the bag onto the outside of the packet, and finally to allow a flexible and easy to open container. The most common material of these bags is metallized plastic film. There is no current way to recycle this material. It takes about 300 years to decompose.
Plastic bags are even worse. Plastic bags are cheap to manufacture and therefore more than one hundred billion are made every year. These take about 200-1000 years to fully decompose and in that time more than a hundred thousand animals die a year from digesting plastic. Animals aren’t the only ones suffering. The toxins released after plastic is disposed majorly pollutes the air, causing inhalation of toxins that can store in your body. This can alter your hormones or even damage your immune and nervous system.
Another of the most common item of litter we see are glass bottles. The amount of glass bottles broken on the street doubles after a Friday or Saturday night. Wine bottles and beer bottles are cracked or smashed, leaving pieces of glass free to harm anyone walking bare foot on the paths and streets. Not only can glass bottles physically hurt people and animals, they also take one to two million years to degrade! However, glass water bottles are a lot safer in terms of releasing toxins and can be recycled very easily. Rather than throwing your empty alcohol glass bottles on the floor, keep or recycle them.
Not only does littering create pollution for our eyes as it is a very unpleasant sight, but the toxicity creates pollution in the environment. It contaminates the area and encourages a culture in lack of caring as the expectance of someone cleaning our rubbish for us is supported. Our environment would be cleaner in terms of sight and in terms of health if more people became aware and active about the situation. Make a change. Don’t be lazy.