How to Stop Plastic Pollution: When Plastic was introduced in the market, it was considered panacea of Science and Technology and few even quoted- “SAVE TREES, USE PLASTIC”.
But with time it’s disadvantage soon became visible on land, in sea, in terrestrial animals, in marine and aquatic ecosystems. From large dumps of collected plastic garbage to microplastics entering human body and animals via food chain have now become very big problem. The only blame we can make on Plastics is that it is not biodegradable, indestructible through natural processes.
For the most, littering of Plastic material and Plastic waste, improper management of waste collection, too much dependence on plastic packaging by industries (especially cosmetic and food processing industries) and insensitivity of the people and the governments, is the main cause.
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What Is Plastic Pollution?
Plastic pollution is a build-up of synthetic plastic products that negatively affect natural habitats for humans and wildlife. Plastic pollution is one of the most significant contributors to climate change. Plastic is nearly impossible to break down, winds up in landfills, and the ocean where it adversely affects marine life. Additionally, waste management cannot effectively recycle most plastic (even those with a recycling symbol), which means that most plastic waste ends up in landfills or the ocean.
Effects of Plastic Pollution
Based on a study by Science Advances in 2021, the Philippines is the leading country on the list of top 10 ocean plastic contributors – generating an estimated 356,371 MT of plastic waste in our ocean. This is followed by India (126,513 MT) Malaysia (73,098 MT), China (70,707 MT), Indonesia (56,333 MT), Myanmar (40,000 MT), Brazil (37,799 MT), Vietnam (28,221 MT), Bangladesh (24,640 MT), and Thailand (22,806 MT)2. The primary contributors to ocean plastic pollution are concentrated in developing Asian nations, with the exception of Brazil.
Africa is one of the largest importers of used Plastics after Asia. Recently China banned it and other nations are also going to ban it or already banned import of used plastic.
There are many negative impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and its inhabitants but they will be wrapped in 3 folds here:
- Harmful to wildlife. Animals often ingest plastic items that they mistake for food, which can cause internal health problems. Many animals like birds, sea turtles, and other marine life become entangled in plastic products, making it difficult for them to live or escape predators. Learn about seven different ways to use less plastic.
- Harmful to the health of all life forms. Most plastic is incinerated or dumped into landfills, where it leaks toxic chemicals into the soil. Annually, 154 million pounds of plastic is incinerated, releasing toxins into the air, leading to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions, speeding up and intensifying the effects of climate change. Additionally, plastics can end up in our food and water supply, causing developmental, neurological, or reproductive disorders, which can be detrimental to animal and human health.
- Provide transportation for invasive species. Floating plastic marine debris can negatively impact marine life and provide transportation for invasive species. As waste floats across the sea, it carries non-native bacteria and other organisms to new locations, where they can be particularly harmful.
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How to Stop Plastic Pollution
Now, the possible solutions can be complete ban on plastic use, innovation, sensitisation, collection, and replacement of Plastic with alternatives which are biodegradable and sustainable.
Many countries have banned use of Plastic completely. Many of the countries have vowed to ban plastic use in phased manner, like India have recently announced to ban all single use plastics by 2022 on the occasion of World Environment Day held in India.
In Africa, Countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana have strict policies on use of single-use plastic. They are either completely banned or the government levies a very high tax on them.
The scientists have discovered some bacteria which can cause for biodegradation of Plastics. Further, organic plastics are promising alternative. Some uses of plastic wastes have been suggested in construction of roads and houses. There has also been thought over to make crude oil from Plastic, since plastic is made from petroleum products, so kind of reverse engineering. Plastics are already used to generate electricity. Further research and innovation is required in order to clean the 1000-year-old mess.
Plastic pollution should be introduced in school syllabus. Although the benefits of recycling are many, it won’t matter if people are uninformed about how bad the plastic situation has become or uninformed about how they can contribute.
If information spreads, more and more can wake up to reality and a chain reaction of information can start. This will affect all parts of society, from governments to corporations. We already see this in some parts of the world as more governments start adopting policies to reduce the use of disposable plastic. One great tool for spreading information is using digestible facts that are easy for people to put in perspective.
Most of the measures planned to tackle plastic pollution have top to bottom approach, it should be replaced by bottom to top approach. Locals should be strengthened and given more powers in waste management. Infrastructure status should be given to Waste Management.
People should also adopt a habit of not littering Plastic waste. The grassroot level approach is required for proper collection of Plastic waste. MNCs should have their own policy to collect plastic materials they introduce in the market, either in form of plastic packaging or direct use of plastics.
Replacement by Alternatives
Because recycling of plastic is not a sustainable solution, because it further deteriorates the quality of plastics and can be easily transformed into microplastics which will further make everything worse. Private companies and Industries should also look for alternative to plastic packaging.
We have to stop using plastic as a disposable material for everything. Bottles, containers, wrappers, cups, plates and so on, we need to stop using plastic, and start using compostable, or biodegradable versions of all of the above, which do exist now, and can be purchased at a premium over the normal plastic stuff. But the real problem isn’t just that we have a problem it’s that we need to convince the entire world that this is a huge problem, that they are part of the problem and they need to be part of the solution instead.
We can invent a million ways to eliminate plastic waste, but until we both convince industry to adopt those inventions and the public to use/buy those inventions over disposable plastics we’re not going to solve anything. We need to stop just recycling and focus more on reduce and reuse.
As for the plastic waste that’s already out there I’ve always thought it would be great to recycle it into 3D printer filament, that could be used to make (hopefully) non disposable products. 3D printing seems to be gaining popularity and making the filament out of recycled plastic rather than new plastic would both reduce its cost and give us something to make out of the tons of recycled plastic that’s not being recycled right now and eliminate the need to create more plastic as well.
Who should be Responsible for Stopping Plastic Pollution?
Humans invented plastic, but humans will have to also solve the problems caused by it. Who is responsible for the plastic pollution? There are three parties that bear this responsibility. Governments that can make and enforce rules, companies that produce or use plastics, and consumers. Each party has its own responsibility. But instead of tackling the plastic soup together, people tend to point fingers at one another.
Companies tend to place the responsibility on consumers, who are supposed to behave responsibly and leave nothing in the environment. Governments, in turn, are reluctant to come up with new regulations, let alone enforce them. And consumers like to point to the government and the companies, while they can already do a lot themselves.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does plastic contribute to pollution?
The amount of plastic that is recycled or burned in waste-to-energy facilities each day is quite little. A large portion of it is disposed of in landfills, where it might take up to a thousand years to decompose and release potentially harmful materials into the soil and water.
How can plastic pollution be reduced?
Refuse to use plastic straws, disposable cutlery, and other single-use plastics. Avoid using non-recyclable plastics if there are better options. Products with excessive or pointless plastic wrapping should be avoided. Adopt reusable products like water bottles, shopping bags, mugs, and silverware for travel.
Who made plastic?
Leo Baekeland, a brilliant marketer and Belgian chemist, invented the first totally synthetic plastic in 1907. James Swinburne, a Scot, was beaten by him by one day to the patent office. Under pressure and heat, he mixed the two chemicals formaldehyde and phenol to create his innovation, which he would name Bakelite.
How durable is plastic?
But when does plastic lose its usefulness? The decomposition of plastic garbage can take 20 to 500 years, and even then, it never completely vanishes; instead, it merely gets smaller and smaller.
Plastic Pollution is a serious problem. It affects endocrine glands in humans which is a very serious health issue as it affects hormonal functions of the body. It also affects reproductive organs and not to forget that plastic pollution will be the main cause of incurable Cancer diseases in future.
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