In recent years, there has been an increase in awareness concerning the negative long-term effects of human activity on the environment. One of these areas of concern is the release of toxins from plastic packaging and waste discharged by factories into the environment and nearby bodies of water. By continuing to develop more environmentally- conscious practices and packaging in industry and by choosing to take small steps in our personal lives, we will together be able to lessen the amount of plastic and chemical toxins released into the environment and prevent further environmental harm.

Several businesses have sought to minimize toxin release into the environment by choosing to recycle and repurpose old waste. Whether it be turning old cardboard boxes into things such as paper towels and toilet paper, recycling plastics to be used in credit cards and sunglasses, turning old rubber into playground equipment, turning milk cartons into benches, or even using material such as plastics bags and glass to build roads, repurposing old waste products has become a modern marvel in reducing the number of pollutants and chemical toxins released into nearby bodies of water. Though recycling and repurposing can be used effectively to help minimize the number of pollutants and toxins discharged into the environment, I believe that there is one, more preventative, a measure that can be taken by both businesses and consumers alike.

I believe that one small, concrete step that businesses can take is moving away from plastic packaging and toward paper-based packaging, a material known to be biodegradable and non-harmful to the environment. The plastic in packaging products such as bags and bubble wrap is known to break down into their microplastic components in the environment and harm several invertebrate species (Flint et al., 2012), organisms essential to the maintenance of a healthy, fully-functional ecological food web. Among the several chemicals leached by microplastics, two chemicals, namely, nonylphenols and bisphenol A, are endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have the potential to cause negative short and long-term effects on reproduction and development of aquatic invertebrates such as Hydra (Pachura-Bouchet et al., 2006). Furthermore, bisphenol A is classified as a priority substance by the European Union, meaning that it poses significant health hazards to vertebrates and invertebrates (Oehlmann et al.,2008), humans included.

For these reasons, I am petitioning that businesses move away from plastic and towards paper-based packaging. On the consumer end, there are many steps that can be taken to assist and encourage businesses in this project. In addition to refusing to buy plastic-based packaging material, consumers can choose to use compostable, reusable, and refillable packaging instead of single-use containers. Consumers can also take the initiative to report businesses that are discharging amounts of plastic waste (in whatever form that may take) that are beyond legal standards. These are only some of the many, practical steps that can be taken by businesses and consumers to help lessen the number of pollutants and chemical toxins released into the environment and nearby bodies of water. Though there is no doubt that pollutants and chemical toxins will continue to find their way into the environment, there are very simple, practical steps that can be taken by both businesses and consumers to help minimize the amount released. By choosing to switch over to paper-based packaging products, businesses and consumers can work together to keep our lakes, streams, rivers, and oceans cleaner as well as ensure the success and vitality of the organisms that call these bodies of water home.

Essay by: Levi Addison Miedema
Wheaton College (IL)

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