Plastic poses several environmental risks, including leaching chemicals and toxins into surrounding ecosystems, threatening the health of local animal populations and releasing greenhouse gases into the air. The negative effects of plastic vary depending on the type of plastic in the environment, quantity and length of exposure time. Plastics contain compounds, such as PVC and BPA, elements deemed a health risk to humans and animals while the leaching of these compounds into air and waterways poses a health and safety risk for nearby organisms.
Plastics pose problems in terrestrial and aquatic environments. Few biodegrade, and leach harmful chemicals into water and soil upon disposal. Plastics, particularly plastic bags, pose threats to animals in all ecosystems. Species in aquatic environments often mistake the bold, bright colors and rapid movements of plastic bags for prey. They ingest the bags, which then disrupt their digestive system processes. Some animals choke on the bags while others move into the animals' digestive tracts, preventing the absorption of real food, in turn causing starvation and illness or death. Plastic of all kinds accumulates on ocean floors, polluting local environments and introducing countless toxins, jeopardizing the health of animals and plants. The accumulation of plastics also creates economic and aesthetic problems, necessitating costly cleanup efforts and accumulating in unsightly trash piles.