You are most likely to be aware of the fact that plastic is bad. The question is how bad is the plastic? Why are they evil? And what is the magnitude of damage that it inflicts? To keep things in perspective consider the following:
- Globally 300 tonnes of plastics are produced annually.
- 50% of that consists of single-use plastic.
- Roughly 8 million ton of plastic is dumped in oceans every year.
How did it all start?
It all started with Bakelite, in the year 1907. Bakelite was the first synthetic plastic to be made. At that time no clear utility of this material was established, hence nobody cared about the damage it would cause in the future. It was not until 1950 that the world opened up to the immense utilitarian aspect of this material. Since then there is no looking back with plastic production reaching all-time high to 380 million ton in 2015. Just to depict its magnitude that’s equivalent to the mass of the 2/3rd of the global population.
Why Dream About A Plasticless World?
The only perceivable problem that a layman might comprehend about plastic pollution is the clogging of water bodies, fish and livestock choking on plastics and that it is virtually non-biodegradable. Truth can’t be farther. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Human exposure to plastics is a health hazard that needs our attention. There is strong evidence that plastics and their additives have a negative impact on human health. Not only human health but plastics have a negative impact on almost every living thing on the planet.
We know that plastic additives are extremely harmful to human bodies, however, there is a lack of study on its complete impact or modus-operandi on human bodies. Majority of plastic additives are not tested, one thing we know for sure is that a human body is regularly exposed to 100’s of plastic additives. Hormone disruptors like BPA and BPF to brominated flame retardants are just a few of them.
So how bad is it again?
Here are some pointers to jolt some curiosity and incentive to be sensitive to plastics pollution:
- Plastic particles have been found in human faeces, that means somehow we are consuming plastics.
- Clear and durable plastics use endocrine disruptive additives.
- Clear plastics are mostly used for bottled water, beverages, medicines and many more direct consumption products.
- These additives lead to disruption of fertility cycles, delayed neurodevelopment in children, immunity issues and proliferation of certain classes of cancers.
- These chemicals have now been found in breast milk too.
- Plastic microfibers are found in the air we breathe also.
Plastic microfibers are present in the water we drink, the clothes we wear, the food we eat and everywhere else. In short, there seems to be no escape from the mess we have created with our own hands. Apart from this, the easiest way of disposing of plastic is incineration, however, that also has its own complications as burning plastic results in toxic chemicals being released into the air. Another alarming trend that needs to be addressed.
What Good A Plasticless World Do?
Before we answer that let’s keep in mind the plastic wastage patterns. Countries like Germany, USA, Kuwait, Guyana & Ireland produce 10 times more plastic pollution than countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. So one thing becomes crystal clear here that there is a huge disparity between population and plastic pollution. What we mean is that less population does not mean less plastic waste generation.
The developed countries would benefit more by going plastic less than developing nations. There is still a lot of research to be done in order to completely understand the magnitude of damage that plastic does to mother earth and its inhabitants. Going plastic less will surely make humans and animals healthier. The rivers and oceans will be less toxic and more habitable. Incidences of cancer would reduce and overall we would be living in a better place.
What’s Being Done To Make The World Plasticless?
Many good researchers with scientific acumen are coming forward and are being funded to get rid of this diabolical phenomenon that has gripped us. Plastic comes in different grades and each one of them has a different method of disposing off. The problem is that in the dump yards all the plastics are collected together and then shredded. It makes separating them manually for recycling next to impossible. Automated methods are pretty expensive and work is being done to make them economically viable.
Awareness is another area which is catching up. If people are sensitive to the evil of plastics then they would use them less. However, that would be just an attempt in putting estoppel to the growing issue. The very first generation plastics that were produced are yet to be recycled or disposed off till date. So that would take its own sweet time to yield tangible results.
Kevin Jacob, an engineer from India has developed a way to convert all the plastic waste into bricks. These bricks are much stronger than traditional bricks. This would help manage the plastic waste to a great extent, but in our opinion still, it’s not a solution. The plastic and its additives would still be there and so will be the exposure.
The good thing is that people and governments are making a conscious effort in tackling the plastic menace. Most countries are banning single-use plastics and that’s a good sign. However truth be told, we still have a very long way ahead to realize our plastic less dream. They say every journey starts with the first step. All we have to do is to spread awareness and find ways to get rid of plastics from our lives.