Plastics and polythene are non-biodegradable, made from non-renewable resources and they can remain in the environment for several years. The usage of plastic and polythene bags is one of the major reasons for the environmental and health hazards.
This article gives an overview that how plastic is used so commonly in today’s time. Plastic Bags should be replaced with different types of material bags available such as Basket Bags, Cotton Bags, so that use of plastic can be reduced. The article covers “Different types of plastics” and “Per Capita Consumption of Plastic in India”. It also gives an overview of the current scenario prevailing on Plastic Waste Production.
In today’s time use of plastic is very common. Today plastic is used in almost every field. Plastic has paved its way in almost every type of industries other than most of the service industries, plastic is used from agro-based industries to manufacturing and warehousing industries everywhere, Agglomerative Industries like pharmaceuticals firms also excessively use plastic whether be it manufacturing or packaging processes.
In India, under the new rules carrying certain do’s and dont’s for manufacturers, distributors, municipal bodies and panchayats, relating to the ban of manufacturing of plastic bags below 50 microns.
The usage of plastic bags is still high as the ban is not implemented on all plastic bags. Replacement of plastic is available like- Basket Bags, Canvas Bags, Cotton Bags, Jute Bags, Paper Bags but people rely so much on plastic as it tends to be cheap due to significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, energy, water, and fertilizer inputs. This is the reason why people are more dependent on plastic.
What is Plastic Pollution?
The word “Plastic” is derived from the Greek word “Plastikos” which means fit for molding.
Plastic is obtained from the substance which is found in nature, like Natural Gas, Oil, Coal, Minerals, and Plants. It is adaptable, flexible, lightweight, moisture-resistant, strong, and comparatively inexpensive. These are the attractive qualities that lead us, around the world, to such an uncontrollable appetite and overconsumption of plastic goods.
However, plastic is durable and its process of degradation is very slow. Manufacturing of plastic materials in big amount for the production of other products made from plastic, ultimately, become waste. Our tremendous magnetism towards plastic, coupled with an unquestionable propensity of increasingly over-consuming, discarding, littering, and thus polluting, has become a combination of devasting nature.
Plastic Pollution is caused by the stack of plastic waste in the environment.
Plastic can be categorized as-
- Primary Plastic such as Cigarette Filters, and Bottle Caps.
- Secondary Plastic such as Resulting in the degradation of the Primary ones.
Types of Plastic
Several types of plastic are being used in the current modern-day by people. Every plastic is different from the other. Some of the plastic which is used is reusable, the others are hazardous material after several uses. Some of the plastics can be easily recycled, but others are more complicated to handle for the process of recycling.
Different types of plastics used by people are-
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE or Polyester)
Polyethylene Terephthalate is also known as wrinkle-free fiber. This plastic is different from the plastic bag people use commonly for daily purposes. Polyethylene Terephthalate is generally used for food and drink packaging purposes for its strong ability to prevent oxygen from entering into and spoiling the commodity inside.
- Highly-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Highly-Density Polyethylene is compared with other types of plastic. It has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which makes it dense, stronger, and thinner from Polyethylene Terephthalate. Highly-Density Polyethylene is often used for a grocery bag, juice bottles, shampoo bottles, and medicine bottles.
Not only for recycle, but High-Density Polyethylene is also comparatively more stable than Polyethylene Terephthalate. Highly-Density Polyethylene is considered to be a safer option for the use of food and drinks.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polyvinyl Chloride is usually used in the making of toys, blister wrap, cling wrap, detergent bottles, loose-leaf binders, blood bags, and medical tubing. Polyvinyl Chloride or vinyl used to be the second most used plastic resin within the world (after polyethylene), before the manufacture and disposal process of Polyvinyl Chloride has been declared as the cause of serious health risks and environmental pollution.
In terms of toxicity, Polyvinyl Chloride is considered to be the most hazardous plastic.
- Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
This type of plastic is the simplest plastic polymer chemical structure, making it very easy and cheap to process. Low-Density Polyethylene polymers have significant chain branching such as long side chains which makes it less dense and less crystalline and generally is a thinner more flexible form of polyethylene.
Low-Density Polyethylene is usually used for bags (grocery, dry cleaning, frozen food bags, newspaper, garbage), cold beverage cups, squeezable bottles, food storage containers. Also, it is used for wire and cable covering.
Some studies have shown that Low-Density Polyethylene caused unhealthy hormonal effects in humans. But it is considered a safer plastic option for use of food and drinks. Unfortunately, this sort of plastic is difficult to be recycled.
- Polypropylene (PP)
Stiffer and resistant to heat, Polypropylene is used widely for hot food containers. Its strength is between Low-Density Polyethylene and Highly-Density Polyethylene. Same as Low-Density Polyethylene, Polypropylene is considered a safer plastic option for food and drink use. Polypropylene isn’t quite recyclable and also causes asthma and hormone disruption in humans.
- Polystyrene (PS)
Polystyrene is the Styrofoam commonly used in food containers, disposable cups, bowls, packaging, and a bike helmet. When it gets exposed to heat and oily food, polystyrene could styrene that is considered as brain and nervous system toxicant. It can also cause-effect in genes, lungs, and immune system.
Above all of these risks, Polystyrene has a low recycling rate.
Consumption of Plastic in India
On the 15th of August, in his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a movement to eliminate single-use plastic in India, beginning on Gandhi Jayanti (October 2). Individuals and Organizations should actively participate to remove plastic waste from the surroundings and municipal bodies must plan to collect these articles. Start-ups and Industries should consider newer ways of recycling. The government should be reported to perform a ban on certain plastic items of common use like carrying bags, cutlery, and plates under the Environment (Protection) Act, and this might be announced on October 2, well before the sooner deadline of 2022.
Despite the notification of the Plastic Waste Management (PWM) Rules 2016, and amendments made two years later, most cities and towns aren’t prepared to implement its provisions. One of the most important issues on the list of Municipal Corporation is the unbelievable amounts of waste disposal, but despite this, Municipal Corporation does not implement the action of segregation of waste, which should have involved: collecting recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic, and other waste separately for processing by material recovery facilities. Despite working incorrectly in order, the under-reporting of true plastic waste leads to an ongoing problem of increasing plastic pollution.
Per Capita consumption of plastic is projected to travel up from 11 Kg in 2014-2015 to 20 Kg by 2020 (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Data) about 43% is single-use packaging with rates of recovery. An amendment to the Plastic Waste Management Rules in 2018, by which a six-month deadline was fixed for producers to rearrange for recovery of waste in partnership with State Urban Development departments, had made little progress.
Recycling reduces the quantity of non-recyclable that has got to be disposed of using methods like co-processing in cement kilns, plasma pyrolysis, or land-filling. In April 2019, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issues notice to 52 companies asking them to file their scheme to fulfill EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) obligation.
Current Scenario Prevailing on Plastic Waste Production (per annum)
Plastic Waste Generation of Countries (Per Year)
- 1. China- 5.98 million tons
- 2. United States- 37.83 million tons
- 3. Germany- 14.48 million tons
- 4. Brazil- 11.8 million tons
- 5. Japan- 7.9 million tons
- 6. Pakistan- 6.41 million tons
- 7. Nigeria- 5.96 million tons
- 8. Russia- 5.84 million tons
- 9. Turkey- 5.6 million tons
- 10. Egypt- 5.46 million tons
- 11. Indonesia- 5.05 million tons
- 12. United Kingdom- 4.93 million tons
- 13. Spain- 4.71 million tons
- 14. France- 4.56 million tons
- 15. India- 4.49 million tons
- 16. South Africa- 4.47 million tons
- 17. Iran- 3.92 million tons
- 18. Mexico- 3.73 million tons
- 19. Thailand- 3.53 million tons
- 20. Vietnam- 3.72 million tons
Plastic Waste Generation of States (Per Year)
The top five cities in all state capitals are-
- Delhi- 689 tonnes
- Chennai- 429 tonnes
- Kolkata- 425 tonnes
- Mumbai- 408 tonnes
- Bangalore- 313 tonnes
India presented these data when it hosted the World Environment Day in June 2018.
Plastic makes up about 8% of total solid waste in India, according to the government.
Are alternatives such as compostable or bio-degradable plastics viable?
Although, compostable, biodegradable or maybe edible plastics made up of various materials like bagasse (the residue after extracting juice from sugarcane), corn starch, and grain flour are promoted as alternatives, these currently have limitations of scale and cost.
A ban on a single-use plastic item would have to, therefore, lay down a comprehensive mechanism to certify the materials marketed as an alternative, and the specific process required to biodegrade to compost them. A movement against plastic waste would need to priorities the reduction of single-use plastic like multi-layer packaging, bread bags, food wraps, and protective packaging. Consumers often have no choice in the matter. Other parts of the campaign must specialize in the tested biodegradable and compostable alternative for plates, cutlery, and cups, rigorous segregation of waste, and scaled up recycling. City Municipal authorities play a key role here.
The environmental effects of plastic are important to be considered because it not only affects the environment but also affects humans. The environmental effects of plastic are pollution, little, loss of resource, and plastic trash vortex. Plastic is extremely harmful to the environment because we use them in massive quantities. This is important because plastic is used worldwide and is mostly used once, then it is thrown out, and because of this, we are just harming our environment by continuing the irrelevant use of plastic.
An alternative for the plastic bag would be using reusable bags made of fabrics instead of using plastic. Using reusable bags would reduce the effect of plastic bags because it will lower the amount of plastic bags being produce and dispose of by simply using a reusable bag. Reusable bags are an alternative for all plastic bags that are environmentally friendly and can be used repeatedly to reduce waste. Plastic bags may be reusable and cheap but they are distorting the environment in every possible way.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
Ques 1- What are plastic?
Ans 1- Plastics are simply chains of like molecules linked together. These chains are called polymers. This is why many plastics begin with “poly,” such as polyethylene, polystyrene, and polypropylene. Polymers often are made of carbon and hydrogen and sometimes oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, chlorine, fluorine, phosphorous, or silicon.
Ques 2- How is plastic made?
Ans 2- To make today’s plastics, chemists start with various elements (atoms such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on) derived from natural resources.
Ques 3- What are bioplastics?
Ans 3- To make today’s plastics, chemists start with various elements (atoms such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and so on) derived from natural resources.
Ques 4- Is plastic biodegradable?
Ans 4- Biodegradability of plastics depends largely on the type of plastic and where it ends up. Many plastics do not biodegrade to any significant degree, regardless of environmental conditions, while some do so very slowly if exposed to air, water, and light. Both types are best recycled or used for their stored energy.
Ques 5- What things are made from recycled plastics?
Ans 5- While used plastic is sometimes recycled into new packaging, that’s not always the case. Used plastic can also be recycled into playground equipment, patio furniture, cooking tools, and even clothing. Non-recycled plastic can also be converted into energy.
- https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/waste/an-indian-consumes-11-kg-plastic-every-year-and-an-average-american-109-kg-60745 -By Shreeshan Venkatesh, Ishan Kukreti, Last Updated: Wednesday 06 June 2018
- https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/where-does-india-stand-on-plastic-waste/article29310525.ece -By G. Ananthakrishnan, Published on September 01, 2019
-  https://solarimpulse.com/plastic-pollution-solutions?utm_term=reduce%20plastic%20pollution&utm_campaign=Solutions&utm_source=adwords&utm_medium=ppc&hsa_acc=1409680977&hsa_cam=1418806209&hsa_grp=61900678539&hsa_ad=309832411566&hsa_src=g&hsa_tgt=kwd296261260999&hsa_kw=reduce%20plastic%20pollution&hsa_mt=b&hsa_net=adwords&hsa_ver=3&gclid=CjwKCAjwsan5BRAOEiwALzomX7QLyyjg5HctHIdDP5WKLaY69Pcmmq0ZIXVjafIUr7rfl_tTogsJhBoCsroQAvD_BwE
-  https://waste4change.com/7-types-plastic-need-know/
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-  https://www.thestreet.com/world/countries-most-plastic-waste-14878534#gid=ci0256b22350022717&pid=10-egypt
-  http://www.cpcbenvis.nic.in/cpcb_newsletter/SOLID%20WASTE
-  https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/where-does-india-stand-on-plastic-waste/article29310525.ece