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Research Microbeads its Effects on the Environment (Coursework Sample)


Write an environmental problem and use framework of saleth and dinar to analyze how they made an institutional change regarding the environmental problem

Last December 28, 2015. US President Barack Obama signed a bill called Microbead-Free Waters act of 2015 (Microbead Free-Waters Act of 2015). Banning the production, distribution and selling of microbeads, as it is said to be harmful for the environment. The bill is intended to protect the nation’s waterways (Imam, J. 2015). Microbeads, as we know are tiny plastic beads that many big companies have added to body scrubs, exfoliating soaps and facial cleansers (Imam, J. 2015). A microbead is any plastic smaller than 1 mm. Because of this nature, microbeads tend to pass through the filtration system of wastewater treatment plants into nearby waterways (Imam, J. 2015). This posed as an environmental threat for the United States because there are more than 8 trillion microbeads entering the United States’ aquatic habitat every day (Imam J. 2015).
Microbeads, as stated above are non-biodegradable in nature (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.) are made of synthetic polymers including polyethylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polypropylene, polystyerene, or polyethylene terephthalate (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). Found in aquatic habitats as well as the wildlife, the quantity of microplastic debris grows every day (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). Microbeads along with all other kinds of plastics have the potential to contaminate food chains, including seafood products consumed by people (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). Microbeads not being filtered through the wastewater treatment plants could lead to a litter via sewage sludge into the environment (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). Although their small size in nature makes them difficult to detect, microbeads have been found in various places such as bays, shorelines, coral reefs, and deep-sea, freshwater lakes, rivers, in fishes and even in the Arctic Sea Ice (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.)(Parker, D. 2014)
Microbeads goes into our aquatic habitats through this process, we use microbeads in our households for hygienic uses (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). It goes into the sewer in the form of "microplastic" marine debris (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). An estimated 808 trillion microbeads are washed down the drain by households from the United States every day. 8 trillion of those are emitted directly to the aquatic habitats. 99% of the total microbeads settle into sludge at wastewater treatment plants. Sludge however, is often spread over areas of land and thus runoff from precipitation and irrigation and it may enable these particles to also enter aquatic habitats (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.).
Microbeads, persisting in aquatic and terrestrial habitats in decades can be harmful when ingested for they accumulate hazardous chemical over time. It has been reported that microplastic has been found in several hundreds of species including marine mammals, turtles, seabirds, fish and invertebrates. Microbeads could harm animals physically and chemically. Physically, microbeads could cause cellular necrosis, inflammation and lacerations in the digestive tract. Chemically, microplastic is associated with a complex mixture of chemicals, many of which are priority pollutants under the US EPA Clean Water Act because the chemicals are persistent, biocumulative and toxic (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al n.d.). Chemicals can accumulate in the body of animals that ate them and can later on cause liver toxicity and disrupt the endocrine system (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.). Because of this, the fish that we eat on our daily basis in our everyday lives could be contaminated with a deadly chemical because it ate a microbead and we are oblivious about it (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al n.d.).
Microbeads found in the arctic sea ice from remote locations are atleast two orders of magnitude greater than those that have been previously reported in highly contaminated surface waters, such as the Pacific gyre (Parker, D. 2014).
The agreements and legislations enacted do not remove totally all sources of microbeads because they found a certain loophole in the bans using strategic wording. For example, there are applications for microbeads that go down the drain but are not considered as "personal care" and "rinse-off products”. Other issues however, see confusion in the use of "plastic" and "biodegradable”. Illinois, the first state to pass the prohibition of use of microbeads, said in their legislation that a plastic must be something that "defined shape during life cycle and after disposal" This allows companies to create microbeads that biodegrade slightly, changing their defined shape in an unspecified time period (Stauth, D. 2014).
Before US President Barrack Obama signed the bill regarding the ban of microbead products nationally, there are already many states that went first on banning the use of microbeads. These states are namely; Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration n.d.). National Collective action has played an important role in the banning of use of microbeads. Because of this, it has prompted action from multinational companies Unilever, The Body Shop, IKEA, Target Corporation, L’Oreal, Colgate/Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson pledged to stop using microbeads in their products ( National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration n.d). Also, more than 70 NGOs from more than 30 countries are working on or atleast helped in banning microbeads(Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.).
There are many proposed solutions on how to deal with the environmental problem which is the cumulative piling up of microplastic marine debris. One solution that is very obvious is the banning of the microbeads on which President Barrack Obama did last December 2015(Microbead Free-Waters Act of 2015). Microbeads are just a small part in a big problem which is the plastic problem ending up in oceans, aquatic habitats, lands and etc (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al n.d.).One of the good things about the microbead problem is that it is controllable, with the growing awareness of this problem, a number of companies, industries, non-profit, government and the academia came together to stop the use microbeads (Stauth, D. 2014).
One of the resolutions of the institution called "Society for Conservation Biology" is that microbeads are indistinguishable from litter and cause the same problems as microplastic debris where as microbeads should qualify as pollution therefore should be regulated under existing U.S. legislation, such as Clean Water Act partnered with the scientific evidence supporting the ban of use of microbeads (Rochman C. Ph. D. et al. n.d.).
Pondering about the topic of my research paper, the limitations of my research topic is that how severe is the use of Microbead in the international scale? My research consists of only the United States of America and yet they still dispose more or less 800 trilllion microbeads every day. Which is just a small part of the whole world, what about the microbead disposal for the whole world?
Using the framework provided by Saleth and Dinar from their paper called "Water institutional reforms: theory and practice. We can know more fully about the stage-based perspective of institutional change.
The first stage in the stage-based perspective of institutional change is the stage called "Mind Change”. As human beings growing up, our behavior and our personality are shaped on how we are exposed to the real world. In line with this, Mind Change happens to policy makers when they find out something that contradicts the way they believe in things. Relating this to the topic, President Barrack Obama saw that global warming is a threat internationally and one of the controlled but getting severe reasons is the use and disposal of microbeads in our waterways. He changed his mind and went on to ban the use of microbeads because it makes global warming stronger (Saleth & Dinar 2004).
The second stage, Political Articulation in my opinion is one of the hardest stages in undergoing institutional change. Because not everyone in politics agrees in your opinion that microbeads should be stopped being produced. Some or majority of the political leaders might not agree on banning the use of microbeads because maybe one of them or a few of them are involved in the profit making of production of microbeads.. It hasn’t really explained in the bill how President Barrack Obama persuaded the congress in approving the bill on banning microbeads. However thou, I think we can safely assume that the political articulation regarding the banning of the use of microbeads went well in favor of President Barrack Obama because he managed to sign the bill and put it into use (Saleth and Dinar 2004).
The third stage happens after the hassle you went throught persuading your fellow policy makers to pass your proposed bill, institutional change. In my understanding, institutional change can be further analyzed by the impact of the institutional change on the behavioral patterns of people affected by it and the impact of their behavioral patterns on the actual resource allocation. The bill was implemented last December 2015, and as stated in the bill. Manufacturing should be stopped beginning on July 2017. I am assuming that my proposed topic is still on its 3rd stage because the law hasn’t been fully implemented yet meaning there are still no concrete evidence on how this will affect the behavioral pattern of people and how it affects the actual resource allocation (Saleth and Dinar 2004).
The fourth and final stage is not yet still covered because the law will be implemented fully only on July 2017.
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