Pandemic Pollution

Pandemic Pollution


This problem is addressing the amount of plastic pollution in our communities and why it has gotten so bad in recent years. Of course, the world is no stranger to pollution and it affects us in various ways every day, but one of the most identifiable is plastic.

Team Information
Be The Change

About the Problem

Problem Category


Problem Context

The problem is Plastic Pollution and how it affects our community as well as our planet. There are a few different versions of pollution, land, water, and air. This would mean, toxic fumes, oil spills, trash, landfills, and especially plastic. Plastic is a common form of pollution, we can identify it alongside every highway, ditch, sidewalk, park, and street. Many people don't realize how much plastic we use throughout our days either. In the recent COVID-19 pandemic, people were quarantined for nearly two years increasing the need for online shopping and contactless food deliveries. This caused an increase in plastic takeout boxes, bags, cups, and straws, as for online shopping most packaging is covered in plastic which has resulted in more plastic waste in circulation. Homelessness has also increased in recent years, due to hardships caused by the pandemic leaving them to live on the streets or leading them to make homeless camps where there is no proper way to dispose of trash.

How did you identify this problem?

During the pandemic I noticed our amazon boxes piling up, we would get package after package of household items, clothes, or even random things we would come to need. After a while, I would notice all these different plastic bubble-wraps in the package and sometimes the softer packages have the complete bubble-wrapped bag. Then the majority of takeout containers are plastic bags with plastic containers, and plastic forks, it was just an overwhelming amount of non-biodegradable packaging. Not to mention the number of disposable masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer containers that have been disgraded over the last few years. Now I can walk outside and see the pandemic littered everywhere. It is overwhelming to see so much pollution in my community and in the world in general.

Problem Details

Who are those affected by this problem?

Plastic pollution has a large effect on the cleanliness of our communities and the well-being of the environment. When there are large amounts of trash littering our roads and sidewalks we encourage an unclean environment. Trash encourages critters such as opossums and raccoons, even stray cats or lose dogs to wander too close to these ditches and roadways where they become victims to passing cars. But those are small-town problems, on a larger scale, neighboring cities are overwhelmed with trash by the homeless. Alongside major highways, homeless camps can be seen with pop-up tents, tarps, shopping carts of clothes, and garbage surrounding the whole area.

How often does this problem occur?

It is sad to say this is no recent problem, this is a reoccurring issue surrounding humans for quite some time. Plastic pollution happens every day. Every time you drop a small piece of your rapper, toss a cigarette bud out the window, or even when put everything in the trash. When we use no biodegradable products, especially one-use products we add to that ever-growing pile of plastic pollution because it is not being properly disposed of.

How long has the problem been going on?

In more recent years it has gotten much worse, but of course, this has been a long-lasting problem that people have been discussing and addressing for years. Because this isn't only an issue surrounding my community but it is affecting my home and my planet. Many other countries suffer from the brute of our plastic waste that ends up finding its way into to ocean and eventually onto their shores.

Is the problem disrupting the community? How?

Plastic pollution disrupts the community because it creates an unclean environment for our families and our wildlife to live in. Our communities should uphold an example to keep our cities and our homes clean so that this may be a more welcoming area to reside in. It makes the community feel unsafe as well, when you have an unkept community it shows a lack of involvement from our officials and encourages poor behavior from others.

Is the issue perceived as a problem by the community at large?

The community at large has mentioned the growing homeless population which has led to considerable amounts of trash left by our freeways and overpasses. Every day on my way to work I pass a homeless camp that continues to litter the highway and it seems that the community has done little to nothing to correct that. In my opinion, the community is more concerned with things that directly affect them, such as gas prices, props, and elections.

Is the problem limited to certain geographic areas?

This is a worldwide issue, plastic affects our forests, roadways, parks, and oceans. It affects poor communities with no proper way to dispose of it, it affects the seagull on the beach, and the bear in the woods, and it is in all of our communities. No matter the use of plastic it is dangerous to our communities and wildlife.

Who are the Stakeholders, those wanting this problem to be fixed?

The Stakeholders are environmentalists, scientists, and those who care about the environment. People who want this problem fixed understand the long-term effects it has on our planet. There is an understanding that we aren't the only living things on this planet when we pollute we put lives at risk, they may not always be human but their lives are no less important.

Addressing the Problem

Are you aware of any solutions, approaches, or efforts to tackle this problem?

There are of course some commonly known solutions such as recycling and buying reusable materials versus buying one-use products. But that only scratches the surface of plastic waste, only so much of the plastic we use daily is recyclable but that doesn't mean these aren't great steps to help with plastic pollution. There are also occasional community clean-ups done by the school or local groups. But there are some better ways to help, the first is to educate on the different types of plastic, what recycling is, what can be recycled, and how to properly dispose of certain chemicals or items. Understanding that not everything can be tossed in the trash and that sometimes what we throw away is harmful to our environment.

What are the obstacles you are aware of to address the problem?

One large issue is the lack of awareness people have toward this topic, sure people see trash and plastic every day but they don't see how the world reacts to it. Many don't want to even put forth the effort to educate themselves or even bother to recycle. But the biggest obstacles are the providers of pollution, such as large corporations that provide exorbitant amounts of plastic-wrapped products. They won't change unless people demand more biodegradable packaging that is actually safe for the environment.

What are the success criteria that could be defined to address this problem?

In a way, preventing pollution almost cost nothing, if anything the solution is to limit your spending. When we are consuming fewer products we are making less waste, and we are pushing companies to find alternative means to package their products. To help prevent pollution it's a matter of being conscious of your effects on the environment. Other means to address this problem would be funding clean-up crews, more recycling plants, and better means of trash disposal in general.