As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the amount of garbage that people produce. Trash dumps and landfills are unfortunate major problems, as they allow pollutants to enter the ground and affect wildlife and groundwater for years to come. Among the wastes, plastic waste is a major environment and public health problem.
Plastics products are an integral part of our lives today. But inadequate plastic waste management raises environmental issues. Every year, humans produce million of tons of plastic and much of that plastic ends up in the environment, harming ecosystems.
Plastics play an important role in day-today life, as in certain application they have an edge over conventional materials. Since its commercial development in the 1950s, plastic has been a real success. Its global production is growing exponentially. Its success comes from its remarkable qualities: ease of shaping, low cost, mechanical resistance, etc. Being the ideal material for packaging, plastic is basically everywhere.
In the last seven decades, new plastic materials, in various applications, have gradually replaced the traditional metal, wood and leather materials. About ninety percent of the plastic products used every day are used once and then thrown: plastic wrap, grocery bags, straws, disposable cutlery and coffee-cup lids among others. Its sheer convenience, lightweight and durable has made this man-made material everywhere in every sphere of human existence.
As plastic is less expensive, it is one of the most widely available and overused item in the world today. The list of over usage of plastic is enormous when we stop and take a look around. We use plastic everywhere. So much of it is just used once and then discarded. Starting from a pen to a polythene bag in which we carry fruits and books are forms of plastic. Be it food packets, toys, storage packing, furniture or electronic items, plastics are so widely used. There is a bit of plastic everywhere, in our wallets, on our dining tables and kitchens, in our cars and buses and in our phones and offices.
Imagining our lives without plastics is impossible. Plastics are present everywhere in society and the environment, especially the marine environment, where large amounts of plastic waste accumulate. Being relatively cheaper and easily available, it has brought about use and throwaway culture. We now have millions of tons of plastic to dispose of every year.
Plastic is so cheap that we throw it away without a thought. On-the-go lifestyles require easily disposable products, such as soda cans or bottles of water, but the accumulation of these products has led to increasing amounts of plastic pollution around the world. Plastic and micro-plastics are pouring into the world’s water systems, buried in our soils, lying on the ocean floor, infiltrating once pristine ecosystems. Though plastics have opened the way for a plethora of new inventions and devices it has also ended up clogging the drains and becoming a health hazard.
Though convenient in our day to day use, it has posed an alarming threat to the environment. Plastic is an incredibly useful material, but it is also made from toxic compounds known to cause illness, and because it is meant for durability, it is not biodegradable. As a result, they accumulate, rather than decompose, in landfills or the natural environment.
Since plastic debris is not biodegradable, but photo-degradable, it makes all the plastic debris fragment into smaller and smaller pieces that can easily be confused by animals or organisms in seawater or freshwater as food. As plastic breaks down into microscopic fibers, it can be inhaled or ingested by human and wildlife. If we consider the fish in the sea, a vast proportion of them now have plastic in them. Eventually, it enters into our food chain and in the human bodies. Plastic that gets into the food chain has serious health implications for humans. There are microplastics in our internal organs, in the food we just ate and the air we are breathing.
Plastics have woven their way into our daily lives and now pose a tremendous threat to the environment. Plastic pollution represents one among the foremost important environmental issues facing humankind. Because of the chemical additives used during plastic production, plastics have potentially harmful effects on human health. Indeed, exposure to toxic chemicals coming out of plastic can cause cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity and other health problems.
Use of plastic in daily lives is bound to increase, however there are viable alternatives to entirely replace plastics while there are other recycling solutions to reduce the plastic which already exists. Solutions will come if sense prevails among the public.