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HERE’S WHY WE SHOULD WORRY ABOUT THE PLASTIC WASTE AROUND US

HERE’S WHY WE SHOULD WORRY ABOUT THE PLASTIC WASTE AROUND US

Sakshi Agrawal

Whether we talk about daily use bottles, storage containers, furniture, or complex machines, plastic has brought about immense convenience in our lifestyle. It’s lightweight, synthetic, hygienic and durable. It can be molded in a variety of ways, and utilized in a wide range of applications. The benefits of plastic are undeniable. The use of plastic, however, becomes a concern due to its accumulation & fragmentation, and consequent impact on health and environment.

Plastic does not degrade. It breaks down into smaller particles called micro plastic, continuing to exist in the environment forever. Now let’s focus on single use plastic, which has become a global menace. Single-use (or disposable) plastics are commonly used for plastic packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include food packaging, bottles, straws, plastic utensils, cutlery, containers, grocery bags, etc. This type of plastic results in increased waste on land and water, polluting the environment. With increasing population and consumption, use of these plastics has only increased manifold. Coupled with irresponsible individual behavior and poor waste management systems, single use plastics have now become one of the most lethal polluters in the world, resulting in a health emergency which is not only affecting humans but other living organisms as well.

Coupled with irresponsible individual behavior and poor waste management systems, single use plastics have now become one of the most lethal polluters in the world, resulting in a health emergency for all.

Besides the pollution havoc on land, plastic has also become a huge threat to marine life. Rivers carry plastic waste from deep inland into the sea, making them major contributors to sea/ocean pollution. On top of it, visitors to beaches across the globe litter the areas with their waste and plastic, contributing further to oceanic pollution.  Plastic enters the waters, thus entering marine ecosystem, contaminating it, and even consumed by the hapless marine life. The micro plastics ingested by the sea organisms are bio-accumulated in their tissues, which enter our food chain through the seafood we consume. Plastics, being absorptive, absorb harmful chemicals from water bodies which ultimately enter human bodies through the sea food.

Stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009

The extent of marine plastic pollution is so big that according to a UN report, if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. The hazards of single use plastic are borne by all creatures – humans, marine life or other animals. Besides this, we also bear the social cost in terms of the welfare loss associated with it. Plastics, especially, plastic bags take up to thousands of years to decompose, contaminating soil and water, and posing significant threats of ingestion, choking and entanglement to animals on land and in the ocean. Due to their light weight, plastic bags can easily be carried and transported by wind, eventually ending up in various places. Carelessly disposed plastic carry bags also end up as part of the food for cattle and stray animals. They cause a choking threat to young children and animals, besides also clogging drains and sewers. The devastating floods of 1988 in Bangladesh were made worse by the plastic bag clogged drains, causing two-thirds of the country loss of life and two-thirds of the country getting submerged.

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