Ways Forward: Avoid Plastic and Save Environment

Ways Forward: Avoid Plastic and Save Environment

Plastic has become an essential commodity in our society. Polythene, Bakelite, Nylon, Rubber are some of the most common synthetic polymers or plastics we use regularly. Every production house bends towards plastics as they are very convenient to use and also cheaper for the consumers as well. Plastics are easy to use due to their malleability. However, there are multi-layered negative aspects of plastic usage towards our health and our environment in a broader sense. Generally, plastic products we use in our daily life are non-toxic but could be hazardous if treated wrongly. The world needs to Avoid Plastic and Save Environment and thus our planet. Let’s discuss this in details.

What is Plastic?

Plastics can be defined as the synthetic polymers of carbon coupled with elements with high molecular mass. Polymers are the structure of long chains of monomers. Plastics are malleable material and can be turned into solid or semi-solid objects according to the convenience of the usage. Plastics are used in manufacturing everything we can imagine. Plastics are inseparable from our day-to-day life. Starting from boxes, packaging, carry bags, utensils, switches, electrical wires, fire-resistant fabric, shoes to pen, pencils, toys, books, magazine etc are made of plastics.

Types of Plastics

Plastic can be classified into two types

  • Thermoplastics are those plastics that can be moulded multiple times by using heat.

Examples: Polyethene, polystyrene and PVC (polyvinylchloride). Generally carry bags. bottles etc. are made of thermoplastic polymers.

  • Thermosetting plastic is those plastic polymers that cannot be moulded several times by using heat.

Examples: Bakelite, melamine etc. Commercially the handles of utensils, switches and fire-resistant fabric etc. are made of thermosetting plastics.

Disadvantages of Plastics and Impact on Human Health

  • Natural decomposition of plastic is not possible as plastics are non-degradable.
  • Plastic is widely used in food packaging. When these plastics come in contact with foodstuffs, the chemical reaction takes place and gets mix with the food which is consumed by the people. That could lead to various forms of cancer.
  • Few additives like masterbatch, phthalates are used in plastics to prevent their structure, which is responsible to cause severe hormonal imbalance in human beings.
  • Using plastic cups, plates lead to endocrine disruption and affect your hormones.
  • Recycling of Plastics requires very modern technology and thus it is not affordable in underdeveloped countries.
  • Various toxic gases and hazardous chemical residues are produced while manufacturing and recycling plastics materials. The output, therefore, causes air, water and land pollution.
Some Alarming facts about Plastic Pollution:

  • One kilogram of plastic waste produces one litter of hydrocarbon.
  • Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide.
  • China is a country of 1.3 billion population. China itself consumes 3 billion plastic bags daily.
  • Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • 73% of beach litter or marine debris in the world is plastic.
  • A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
  • 90% of plastic pollution in the oceans is carried by just 10 rivers.
  • Plastic is responsible for killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
  • It is estimated that a human being eats 70,000 microplastics each year on average.
  • World plastic production has doubled in the last 50 years.
  • Plastic bags are the second-most common type of ocean refuse, after cigarette butts (2008).
  • Only less than 9% of plastics are recycled worldwide.
  • 10 million tons of plastics are dumped in the ocean every year.

Effects of Plastic Pollution on the Environment

Plastic pollution has many negative effects on living organisms in the environment. Here are some negative impacts of plastic materials on the environment. When we burnt, they release some toxic fumes which cause ozone depletion and pollution

  • Pollution of Ground Water
    Rainwater harvesting is commonly used to increase the level of groundwater. However, dumping plastic waste interferes with rainwater harvesting and forms hazardous chemicals. These chemicals affect the quality of groundwater resulting in water pollution.
  • Air Pollution and Ozone Depletion
    On burning Plastics release some toxic gases which results in air pollution and ozone depletion.
  • Effect on Marine Life
    Plastic pollution has tremendous adverse effects on marine life. Plastic fishing nets, straws and other plastic waste dumped in river and ocean water. The aquatic animals are losing their lives after consuming those plastics or sometimes getting suffocated by these plastic wastes. The toxins released from plastic waste is causing irreversible damage to biodiversity. Plastic materials also clog waterways, oceans, seas, lakes etc. and sometimes becomes the reason behind flood in the region. Reports say that at least one-third of marine mammals have been found entangled in marine litter. Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic wastes in their stomachs. Sooner or later they will die eventually.
Plastic Pollution Impact on Marine life: Avoid Plastic and Save Environment
Plastic Pollution Impact on Marine life: Avoid Plastic and Save Environment
  • Eco-System Balance is being destroyed
    Lakes, ponds, rivers, wetlands are being encroached by plastics. It is leading to disrupt the Eco-System Balance. Fish eat thousands of tons of plastic every year and transferring it up the food chain to bigger fish and other marine mammals. Thus a neverending chain of Eco-System imbalance is rotating around. According to some research-based environmental data, if some stringent measures are not taken immediately to curb the extensive usage of plastic, then the oceans will have more plastic waste than fishes by 2050.

Ways Forward

Avoid Plastic and Save Environment

1. Use of reusable containers: For daily usage, the use of reusable cloth bags or containers made of ceramic or wood or steel instead of plastic ones will improve the planet’s atmosphere. Anyone can bring cloth bags from home.
2. Reduce buying packaged products: Try to buy products with biodegradable containers as plastic containers are of no use after we consume or use the product. These plastic containers pollute the environment if not recycled well.
3. Buy Fresh Vegetables: Fresh vegetables need no preservation. If they are bought daily, there is no need to pack.
4. Say ‘No’ to plastic: Plastic materials are the main threats to the natural environment. Straws, bottles, forks, brushes and many more things made of plastic are harmful to human beings as well as other living things. Say ‘No’ to them.
5. Chew organic chewing gums: Most of the chewing gums contain plastic which is very harmful to our health. Organic chewing gums are safe.
6. Choose to Reuse: If someone has to buy any content packaged with plastic, choose the recycling-bin for recycling plastic.
7. Use the right recycling container: There are 10 types of wastes being collected for recycling. Use the red container for plastics.
8. Reduce Plastic Makeup: Plastic makeup kits contain synthetic polymers that are very harmful to the skin and can cause cancer. The UK has banned the use of plastic microbeads. Organic makeup is a good alternative. A healthy lifestyle can make a person look beautiful.

Conclusion

We have to Avoid Plastic and Save Environment. There will be no tomorrow if we don’t act today on plastics and focus on protecting our environment. There are some countries like Kenya which has introduced a stringent measure to curb plastic pollution. Imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000 will be imposed if people are caught producing, selling, or even using plastic bags in Kenya. There are some other countries like China, France, Rwanda, and Italy which have banned, partially banned, or taxed single-use plastic bags. India is also focusing on curbing Plastic usage. The government of India has made a commitment to eliminate all single-use plastic in the country by 2022. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has joined hands with  Norway and Germany to combat marine pollution. It is also to be noted that a joint task force on ‘Blue Economy’ has been set up as a part of the India-Norway collaboration. ‘Blue Economy’ is a field of exploration and preservation of marine biodiversity. Marine litter is the fastest growing environmental issue around the world.  About 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans annually in Indian coastal regions. India has also set a target of becoming a plastic-free country by 2022.

However, the time of framing policies is over. Now, not only the administration or the government but also every citizen must work towards implementing policies in the pursuit of a world that’s livable and free of the harmful effects of plastic. Let’s take a pledge to save this environment from the harmful effects of plastic.

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