Plastic Pollution

plastic pollution

What is Plastic pollution :-

  • Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic on earth which is negatively impacting environment and living beings. Plastic is non-biodegradable and takes approx 500 to 1000 years to completely degrade.

Intensity of the situation :-

  • We are inhaling and literally eating plastic. A lot of plastic wastage is dividing into smaller particles and are mixing in air and in land. And hence we are inhaling the plastic particles and eating the plants that absorbed plastic from land.

Causes of Plastic pollution :-

  • Usage of plastic products in increased multifold, and hence the production of plastic is rapidly increased.
  • There are no cheap alternatives to plastic bags and other plastic products. Plastic is very inexpensive, and hence is being used by almost everyone.
  • There is no proper awareness among public about the ill-effects of plastic usage.
  • Though there are bans on plastic bags, the alternatives are not encouraged enough.
  • There is no responsibility assigned to manufacturers of plastic products and hence the production of plastic is still high. Many things such as food items, cosmetic products are all wrapped in plastic because once the products are sold, there is no responsibility of the plastic wastage on manufacturers.
  • Only 21% of the plastic is recycled (till 2017) and all the remaining plastic garbage is polluting air, land and oceans. Recyclable plastic items are also thrown into garbage and are not being recycled.
  • Single use plastic items constitute half of the plastic pollution.

Effects of Plastic pollution :-

  • Plastic garbage is causing land, air and water pollution.
  • Discarded plastic items are dividing into small particles and we are inhaling those particles. When the plastic is burned along with other garbage, it release poisonous chemicals into air which causes severe health problems.
  • Most of the plastic waste is mixing in oceans, posing severe problems for marine life. A lot of ocean animals are dying by eating plastic waste. Fishes are eating polystyrene (small plastic particles). When we eat these ocean fishes, we are indirectly eating plastic.
  • Plastic waste is polluting land and ground water as well. Plants are absorbing small plastic particles. Plastic waste is preventing rain water from seeping into the ground. These products clog drains as well. Bangladesh witnessed worse floods due to plastic waste and hence imposed ban on plastic.
  • Many animals are dying by eating plastic covers.
  • These days everything including food is wrapped in plastic. When these products are exposed to heat, it releases dangerous chemicals such as BPA (bisphenol-a) into food. The same goes with plastic bottles as well. This causes severe health problems when consumed.
  • Poly vinyl chloride & poly carbonates that are present in plastic waste causes skin diseases, cancers etc.
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Steps taken in India :-

  • In India, ban on plastic is different in different states. Recently Mumbai, the biggest plastic waste generator banned sale, import and usage of single use plastic.
  • Single use plastic is banned in 18 states of India. Plastic covers below 50 microns is also banned because thinner bags pose major threat o environment and not recyclable.
  • Almost all states started charging for plastic covers. But this move is ineffective because plastic covers cost just 2 or 3 rs. and everyone is ready to buy them.
  • Plastic ban in Sikkim is very effective when compared with all other states of India.

Best Practices worldwide :-

  • Rwanda banned plastic since 2008 and is likely to become first plastic-free country in the world. The plastic ban in Rwanda is effective because the punishments of selling and using plastic are severe. People are fined, jailed and even forced to make public confessions if they use plastic.
  • Approx 40 countries like India, England, China, Australia etc imposed partial bans and heavy taxes on plastic.
  • Sweden is the best country in effectively recycling almost everything including plastic.
  • In Ireland plastic bags are made very expensive. This step worked well and usage of plastic bags reduced drastically.
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What needs to be done :-

  • Alternatives to plastic bags and covers should be encouraged by subsidies etc.
  • Awareness programs on ill-effects of plastic should be conducted on a war-footing.
  • Plastic waste should be effectively recycled by constructing roads and houses etc. with the plastic waste.
  • We should target at production stage. Supply of plastic items is too high. Manufacturers should be made liable for the waste.
  • Imposing responsibility and heavy fines to manufacturers will force them to look for alternatives to pack their goods, for example some soaps are now being packed in paper materials instead of plastic.
  • At an individual level, we should reduce plastic usage as much as possible. For example, carrying cloth bags to market, using steel water bottles can be our first step to transform our lives into plastic-free.

Conclusion :-

Along with implementing bans on plastic goods, alternative materials should be encouraged. People should feel responsible for the plastic waste they are throwing. To make everyone feel responsible, extensive awareness programs are needed. Eliminating the need of plastic goods and recycling & upcycling of the plastic waste will save earth from plastic pollution.

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