The Great Plastic Debate Continues

Mariam Alashmawi

How to best protect the environment from the overuse of plastic has been a topic of debate for decades resulting in activists calling for alternatives, such as metal straws, and eco-friendly companies pushing products, like the reusable water bottle, that are better for the planet.

With scientific studies showing that plastic is contributing to the contamination of human and wildlife habitats and pollution to the air, rivers and ocean, the great plastic debate continues.

“Plastic is literally everywhere and used for almost everything,” substitute teacher Cody Steinman said. “I just don’t think that it’s the government’s priority right now because we have other things happening in our country. If we could make an alternative that is more eco-friendly and is as universal as plastic, then I think we should restrict plastic production.”

Studies indicate that takes thousands of years to decompose in landfills and that burning plastic produces gases that are harmful to humans and could cause cancer. Burning can also cause damage to the ozone layer which is the layer that keeps every living thing protected from harmful UV rays from the sun causing global warming. While some environmental activists would like to see government intervention to help reduce the plastic problem, physics teacher Stephen Mathews says that’s not the answer.

“I think it’s stupid to restrict the amount of plastic we use,” Mathews said. “It’s against our fundamental rights and we’re really not the ones to put all the blame; it’s China that’s dumping their trash into the ocean. Even if we were to restrict plastic production, it wouldn’t make other countries follow because they’re going to do what they want. Getting rid of plastic is just going to make the environment cleaner, which is great, but getting rid of plastic isn’t going to reduce global warming scientifically.”

Campaigns, such as “Save the Turtles,” have brought focus to the issue in hopes of creating more awareness on what experts call a growing plastic problem. Junior Liv Cawthon said awareness is important and that everyone can contribute to saving the Earth and cleaning up the environment.

“We should absolutely put a restriction on plastic, especially on big corporations because they create the most plastic waste and it would be easier for normal households to follow,” Cawthon said. “The government isn’t going to do anything about it until it gets worse, but instead of just watching our planet die slowly we could always do things to prevent more destruction. We could make cheaper alternatives more mainstream by advertising reusable plates, utensils, straws, and containers; recycling could go a long way. The problem is relatively easy to fix; we’re going to need everybody to cooperate.”