The use of plastic across the last two decades has become an indispensable part of our daily lives and no doubt, it is a contributing aspect to the growth of the economy but at the cost of the environment. Though it is hard to imagine life without plastic in the modern era, its impact on destroying the environment, flora, and fauna has been increasing anxiety across the world.
Used in All Aspects of Life
Plastic is used in all areas of life, right from containers to poly-bags, from pipelines, tanks to bathtubs, electric parts, screws, heavy machinery parts, etc. Plastic has occupied all aspects of our daily lives. Plastics are available in so many variants like low-density polyethene (LDP) used in carrying bags, on the other hand, high-quality plastic is used in children’s toys, storage boxes, containers, water bottles, etc.
But while we are talking about the ban of plastic, we particularly meant the one-time plastic items were used, like carrying bags, low-grade water-bottles, etc. There is no doubt that plastic is pervasively involved with our environment and economy. Thus the Government of India has taken the initiative to ban all single-use plastic by the year 2022 on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019.
How Plastic Harms The Environment
Difficult To Decompose: Plastic is termed as a permanent pollutant because it takes about 500-1000 years to decompose. Plastics are made of long-chain polymers of carbon and are developed often from the remains of petroleum products. Decomposition is a natural phenomenon where organisms like bacteria are involved and break a cellular structure down and feed on it. But the composition of plastics is not naturally occurring and the organisms also have not yet been evolved to be able to utilize its chemical composition and thus decomposition of plastic is not possible by nature. The only method that is known so far to naturally decompose plastics is to leave it in open sunlight (UV rays).
Forced Disposal Harmful: Plastic disposal is pretty complicated as it cannot decompose. If it used in landfills for constructive use, it will prevent the seepage of water into the ground, which can result in the low level of groundwater along with becoming the breeding grounds for all sorts of disease-causing germs. If it is disposed of into the water bodies, ultimately making its way into the oceans where it affects the survival of marine organisms. Burning plastics releases toxins that cause air pollution and adverse to the current scenario. In conclusion, plastic cannot be disposed of and hence need to be recycled to save the environment and life.
Damages Wildlife: It has been observed and documented that more than one million marine animals and birds are killed annually due to plastic. When plastics are accumulated in ocean beds, it decomposes due to direct sunlight and releases toxic chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA), PS-oligomer, etc. These chemicals enter the food chain and affect the ocean as well as human life. Moreover, plastics sometimes are directly consumed by fish and other marine animals and these results in the death and disturbance in the marine food chain. Sometimes, the plastics in landfills are eaten by birds and suffer the same fate as fishes. Autopsies of dead animals, fishes and birds have shown significant varieties of waste materials in their intestines.
Over-Dependency And Usages: Global plastic demand reaches over 300 million tons every year. From small to big scale industry, plastic is used everywhere, like carrying goods, in packaging material, in household products like food containers and water bottles, disposable utensils, electronics casings, insulations, etc. This over-dependence on plastics has led to an excess disposition.
Greener Alternative: The deteriorating adverse situation demands a suitable solution because we can't avoid them. Plastic is practically everywhere. Nowadays the advancement of science has found a solution, which is biodegradable plastics. There are 2 types of biodegradable plastics available. One is plant-based hydro-biodegradable plastic, also known as Polylactic Acid which is produced from corn. This degrades within 47 to 90 days. The second type is petroleum-based oxo-biodegradable plastic. Apart from this, biodegradable bags made from paper or plant leaf or waste parts can be used for daily purposes and industrial packaging material. The other alternative is using recycled material rather than custom made packaging.
Reducing Plastic Use at Individual Level: As it is said, charity begins at home, every change should start from a personal level. Like each one of us can start the change by reducing the use of plastics on a personal level, for eg. rejecting one-time-use plastic grocery bags, bottles, food containers, and other household items. Apart from that, we can encourage our neighbours and relatives and known people to recycle the existing plastic, which in turn results in reducing the plastic waste.
Ban Use Of Plastics Through Governmental Policies: Banning the use of plastics completely overnight is a very drastic measure that can affect the economy severely. Proper Governmental policies can help in resolving the situation as every aspect needed to be monitored from manufacturing to the disposal.
To conclude, we can't deny the involvement of plastic in our life. Plastic is everywhere - from household goods to industrial aspects, the involvement is throughout. But to save the environment from further damage awareness is essential along with prevention. The minimal use of plastics on a personal level can help us to move towards greener alternatives on an industrial and global level. The focus should be on reduce, reuse and recycling plastics.