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Disposal of plastic is actually a myth
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2008-01-26 City : Chennai

Plastic defies any kind of progressive attempt at disposal. The solution should be saying ‘no’ to plastics

 

The next time we do shopping and carry home our purchase in a cute, comfy plastic carry-bag, think: we are contributing to a deadly pollution wherein the ill-effects are irreversible and capable of reaching out to our future generations!

     Statistics reveal that daily use plastics like PET bottles, polythene carry bags and HDPE grain sacks account for nearly 20 per cent of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in our country!

     “In the past decade India’s consumption of plastics has grown by 12 per cent a year. Based on various parameters like resin, bondability and heat resilience plastics are categorized in the grade 1 to 7. India’s producing a lot of plastic and majority of them produced is of low quality, that is not even worth recycling!,” laments Ramakumar Purushotham, Associate Vice President – Energy Up-strem, Enzen Global Solutions, an energy and environment consulting firm.

 

How harmful is plastic

 

     Plastic is one of the major toxic pollutants of our time. Being a non-biodegradable substance, composed of toxic chemicals, plastic pollutes earth, air and water. Plastic wastes clog the drains and thus hit especially urban sewage systems. Choked drains provide excellent breeding grounds for disease-causing mosquitoes besides causing flooding during the monsoons. Plastic wastes being dumped into rivers, streams and seas contaminate the water, soil, marine life and also burning of plastic waste contributes to air pollution.

     “The toxic chemicals that go into making of plastic and pose serious threat to living being of all species on earth are Benzene (which can cause cancer), Styrene (extremely toxic), Sulphur Oxides (which harm the respiratory system), Nitrous Oxides (which adversely effect the nervous system and child behavioural development) and Ethylene Oxides (harms male and female reproductive capacity),” explains Ramakumar.

     Plastic causes serious damage to environment both during its production and its disposal. “Disposal’ of plastic is actually a myth,” says Ramakumar. Once plastic is produced, the damage is done once and for all. Plastic defies any kind of attempt at disposal – be it recycling, burning or land filling.

    

“Since plastic does not undergo bacterial decomposition, land filling would mean preserving the poison forever. Landfills are also prone to leaks. The cadmium and lead in the wastes invariably mix with rain water, then seep through the ground and drain into nearby streams and lakes and other water bodies. Thus the water we use gets poisoned. Burning plastics to get rid of is not an option either. When burned, plastic releases a host of poisonous chemicals into the air, including dioxins, which is a carcinogen,” he adds.

 

Recycling uneconomic

 

     Apart from these perils, recycling of plastic is known to be uneconomical, dirty and labour-intensive. Recycling of plastic is also associated with skin and respiratory problems, resulting from exposure to and inhalation of toxic fumes. What is worse, the recycled plastic degrades in quality and necessitates the production of more new plastic to make the original product. Made from the petroleum refining process, plastic is a non-renewable oil based fossil fuel.

     Experts say that reprocessing of plastics involve the creation of a secondary product known as plastic lumber or clothing fibres, which is also recyclable and non-biodegradable.

 

The solution?

 

     The only way to reduce the hazards of plastic is to reduce the use of plastic and thereby force a reduction in its production. “We should favour Zero Waste strategies rather than waste management schemes. Zero waste is a building global movement aimed at holding manufacturers responsible for the materials they produced and profit from. At the manufacturing level itself, there are some regulations to ensure that the product being manufactured is biodegradable and does not have any adverse effect on the environment. The products should be designed with zero waste in mind, otherwise they should not be considered culturally or ecologically sustainable,” advises Ramakumar.

     Education regarding waste is also an important first step. As a leading importer of industrialized nation’s wastes, India has suffered under a disproportionate amount of the world’s toxic legacy.

     Banning disposal plastic is one of the most successful ways that a country can protect its people and environment from industries motivated more by profit than by a concern for humanity. As an alternative to disposable plastics, we should encourage the use of tetra packs, glass bottles, cloth and paper bags which are recyclable.

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