Tearfund and produced in partnership with conservation charity Fauna and Flora International (FFI), the Institute of Development Studies and waste management charity WasteAid found that plastic waste is adding a fresh set of problems to an already bad pollution situation in developing countries. When plastic waste is burnt on open fires in an attempt to try and dispose of it, it releases harmful toxins causing air pollution and when some plastics deteriorate, they can release harmful chemicals into the water table and the environment, which can then break down into microplastics. The effect of microplastics on humans and animals is still poorly understood. Dumped plastic waste can block waterways, which can cause flooding, which then further contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases. Plastic pollution can also lead to a loss of fishing, as marine and freshwater animals ingest plastic, which in some cases kills them. It also results in a negative effect on agricultural production, as up to half the goats and a third of cattle in developing countries have consumed significant amounts of plastics, which can lead to potentially harmful bloating. The natural historian and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough wrote the forward to the report and called for urgent action to combat the problem, particularly from the companies that are responsible for producing large amounts of plastic. These include wealthy multinationals like Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever. “It’s high time we turned our attention fully to one of the most pressing problems of today – averting the plastic pollution crisis – not only for the health of our planet but for the wellbeing of people around the world. This report is one of the first to highlight the impacts of plastic pollution not just on wildlife but also on the world’s poorest people,” wrote Attenborough. At least two billion people in the world do not have their rubbish collected and living near rubbish doubles the risk of contracting diarrhoea, a major cause of death in the developing world. While hundreds of thousands make their living from collecting rubbish, some of whom are known as “waste pickers” who actually live in rubbish dumps and scavenge what they can for recycling. Up to 100 million tons of plastic pollution has already found its way into the world’s oceans and a further eight million tonnes are dumped into the sea each year according to the UN.
7th June 2019
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