Surprising Things That Are Rapidly Killing The Environment

Over the past couple of decades, people have begun to take much more notice of the damage that humanity is doing to the planet. Whether it means reconsidering their carbon footprint to help combat climate change or just sorting through their trash to recycle more waste, the world’s population is becoming increasingly aware of the dangerous implications that their actions have. Yet, there are still plenty of shocking things hurting the environment that most people simply aren't aware of.

These strange environmental hazards are often everyday items that are regularly used by a huge number of people. Although they are not particularly damaging on their own, the sheer amount of times they are used means they soon add up to be a huge problem. Whether the issue comes from the materials they are made of or the harm done to access the ingredients, each of these common objects is actually destroying the environment in truly mind boggling ways.

  • Cats

    Photo: Somebody in the WWW / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    While cats may be adorable, their litter contributes to killing the planet in a very specific way. Most cat litter is made from bentonite clay which is generally strip mined. This type of mining is particularly damaging for the environment. The top layer of earth has to be removed, completely destroying any plant life on the surface, as well as many wildlife habitats. Contaminants such as heavy metals can also be washed away into waterways, potentially harming any marine life as the dangerous agents dissolve.

  • K-Cups

    K-Cups are the epitome of efficiency. They allow anyone to instantly make the perfect cup of coffee; unfortunately, they are a huge problem for the environment. The sheer amount of waste produced by their use is astonishing. It is estimated that up to 13 billion of the tiny plastic cups are used every single year. Thanks to the fact that they are made out of a type of plastic that is not easily recycled, they usually end up in landfills. Even in the few places where they can be recycled, it requires users to separate the metal, foil, and plastic parts manually – something which goes against the very idea of instant coffee.

  • Shampoo

    Photo: Kunnskap / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    Shampoo, like many other cosmetic products, contains tiny plastic balls known as microbeads. They help to ensure shampoo or other materials can be easily spread and stay lubricated. Yet, with each use hundreds of thousands of microbeads enter the sewage system. Eventually they can end up in oceans and rivers, contaminating them with tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakenly eat. Not only does this cause health problems for these creatures but once the microbeads enter the food chain they can easily work their way into bigger animals and even humans in large numbers. Some estimates suggest that people are eating more than 10,000 microbeads every single year.

  • Chopsticks

    Chopsticks are used around the world to eat but most people are not aware of how many are actually produced. Tens of billions of the disposable utensils are created annually, using up 20 million trees worth of wood. What makes matters worse is that the chopsticks are almost always thrown away after being used only once. This means that not only is China going through mass deforestation to provide the materials to create chopsticks, but that they then end up in a giant landfill.

  • Fake Ice Cream Sprinkles

    Fake ice cream sprinkles led to a Miami museum being fined after the tiny plastic pieces caused havoc in the local area. Officials blamed the Museum of Ice Cream for polluting the surrounding area when the imitation sprinkles attached themselves to the clothing of visitors and then spread outside of the building. The problem here is that small bits of plastic can easily be swept away into drains and gutters and end up in major water sources. Once there, marine animals often mistakenly consume the waste thinking it is food.

  • Mobile Phones

    Mobile Phones
    Photo: MikroLogika / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    With the advent of modern smartphones, the devices have become essential items most people depend upon on a daily basis. There are several issues with them that make mobile phones problematic for the planet. They are filled with materials that can be difficult to recycle, including precious metals such as gold and copper. Mining these substances often causes environmental damage in terms of deforestation and harm to animal habitats. With people upgrading their phones almost every two years, this leads to a huge amount of waste that is continuously produced as older devices are discarded in favor of new ones.