Thursday, July 28, 2016

What is pollution and how does it happen?

Pollution, it is a funny word. It is used so often these days however it is derived from the latin word pollutionem which means 'make dirty'.

That makes perfect sense when pollution can be defined as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects. Pollution makes the environment dirty.

Wait a minute. Who is making the environment dirty? Have a good look around you, and in the mirror too, because people are the biggest producers of pollution. Since almost all people live on the land it is logical and well documented that most pollution comes from the land.

Example: When we go to the store and buy a packaged item we don't call it pollution. It is only after we removed the item we want from the package that the packaging itself becomes waste matter. 

Packaging waste can become pollution when not disposed of properly. For instance have you noticed that there is often rubbish (pollution) outside take away food shops, the sides of roads, building sites or shopping centres? 

This visible pollution can be picked up in the wind and carried far away however, as with many kinds of pollution, the cleansing rains often pick it up and transport it down through drains to the rivers and streams to lakes, estuaries and eventually to the sea. 

Packaging waste that is recycled can find another life as a useful product and some innovators actually re-purpose waste into new things, like clothing, floor surfaces or furniture. We could call that sustainable solutions for waste. We need lots of people thinking about sustainable solutions to reduce pollution.

OK well how about another example, fuel. Although some of the processes used to make fuel can cause pollution, fuel isn't actually pollution when we put it into our fuel tanks. However once we have used it in our vehicle a few things happen. One is that chemical residues leave the car and go unseen up into the air creating air pollution. Some residues splash or drip from the exhaust pipe or engine right onto the road to become pollution. 

The chemicals in the air will eventually fall down onto the land or roofs or roads. These chemical residues get washed away in run-off from rainstorms sending poisons straight into the stormwater drains that lead to the sea. People are thinking about how to change this.

Although these are only a couple of examples of pollution, can we challenge you to think about all the things around you that will become waste and what life they may have as pollution afterwards? 

Every action that we make or take changes our environment. Is there a way that you might use your own actions to make things better? 

Could you find ways to use less packaging, recycle, re-purpose or or simply keep stormwater cleaner by keeping chemicals out of the drains?

Our oceans are a precious asset providing us with food, adventure, and much that is yet undiscovered. By being thoughtful about air and land pollution you can help keep our seas clean.

Learn more about Marine Stormwater Pollution here