Gen Z: Why the plastic industry is killing our generation
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TIMESLEDGER | QNS.COM | MAY 14-MAY 20, 2021 19
BY VICTORIA LU
Throughout the entirety of my life, plastic has
been integral. It is littered amongst my neighborhood,
chokes the rivers in the parks, and is wasted
in tons on supermarket aisles. But there seems to
be no relief from the burden of plastic.
Human consumption spans anywhere from
39,000 to 52,000 micro-plastic particles a year, and
with added estimates of how much micro-plastic
might be inhaled, that number is more than
The inhalation of micro-plastics is proving to
be the silent killer of our generation. Research
confirms that micro-plastics entering the human
body account for a multitude of diseases and disruptions
to the bodily systems such as cancer,
auto-immune conditions, and neurodegenerative
diseases, to cite a few.
Despite the persistent health crisis, the Global
Plastic Industry is booming, with a projected
growth from the current value of $344 billion to
$412 billion in 2024. There is a complete disregard
for social and corporate accountability, and thus
persistent efforts must be executed in resolving
the extremity of the plastic crisis for the sake of
our generation’s survival.
Companies force the use of plastic plates, cups,
utensils and unwrapped packaging, consequently
leading to excess plastic waste. Because of this everyday
plastic use, we hardly stop and reflect on
A toss of a simple plastic straw will take a century
to decompose, and thus a neglected straw is
representative of the idea of plastic.
The plastic bottle we quench our thirst from releases
toxins such as BHA from heated plastic.
The packaging on a box of sliced fruit carries a
risk of an inhalation of micro-plastic particles and
hundreds of toxic substances.
The nourishing food we consume for energy is
littered with plastic contaminates.
The accumulation within our soil, air and
aquatic food chains lends increased opportunities
in plastic waste exposure.
The air we breathe is arid with micro-plastics
and the effects of poor plastic waste management.
The carcinogenic exposure ensues the impairment
of the nervous system, endocrine system, reproductive
and developmental issues and cancer.
Micro-plastics that enter the human body
through direct ingestion or inhalation may cause
inflammation, toxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis
and necrosis, among other health effects.
As a member of our plastic-crazed society, I
have unknowingly consumed roughly 5 grams
of plastic each week in the course of daily life,
or about the weight of a credit card, according to
Australian researchers. Roughly a half pound of
plastic per year. We are evidently amongst a public
health crisis, and at 16, I am at a high risk of
plastic induced illness.
The fossil fuel industry is directly responsible
for 99 percent of plastic produced and over 170
chemicals are used in the process. In order to decrease
plastic waste, the fossil fuel industry needs
to be heavily reformed with an increase in the
transparency of plastic production and chemicals
from major corporations and companies.
Moreover, research is imperative to evaluate
the effect of thousands of toxins, micro-plastics
and fibers within consumer goods. Legal framework
should also be adopted in order to ensure
that frontline communities are protected and to
increase reform and research.
When it comes down to it, holding the industry
and legislators accountable is the only path
toward change, and as youth, we need to educate
and involve ourselves in efforts to revolutionize
Lastly, social media is a useful tool and by reposting,
liking and sharing information, you are
educating hundreds and potentially thousands of
people on the effects of the plastic crisis and who
consumers must be holding accountable. If there
continues to be an abhorrent neglect, it will leave
little hope for the health of our generation.
Victoria Lu is a junior at Forest Hills High
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