Plastic is an incredible substance for the economy and the worst substance possible for the environment”
Plastic is the most ubiquitous substance that takes up so much of our lives and fills up our land and oceans, polluting it and adding to our health-stress. The current pandemic has normalised the use of plastic as more and more of it gets used as protection against the virus.
Plastic is widely used as part of many consumer products, and this for its characteristics of flexibility, strength, chemical stability and low production cost.
Plastics are so versatile in use that their impact on the environment is extremely wide ranging. Careless disposal of plastic bags chokes drains, blocks the fertility of the soil and causes problems for groundwater recharge. Plastic bags can also contaminate foodstuffs due to leaching of toxic dyes.
India’s plastic waste problem is not as huge as the rich countries like United states , EU`s countries — but it is growing. India generates more than 26000 tonnes of plastic waste daily which is equivalent to the weight of around 4300 elephants, Of this, about 60% get recycled according to Environment ministry.
But we just can`t stop to use plastic. It’s a bit like tobacco — if we stop smoking, farmers will be affected; if we stop throwing plastic the recycling industry — run by small industry, working often in the informal sector, using the poorest people, who work in the most abysmal conditions — will collapse. Jobs will be lost.
While plastic undoubtedly does great harm when it finds its way into the environment, it does have significant benefits over other materials. Plastic requires less energy to produce, consumes less water and is lighter to transport. Plastic is also a useful material that offers unrivalled functionality at low cost, particularly for safe food and water packaging
Plastic itself is not the issue that needs to be tackled – it’s our single-use behaviour. We should be viewing plastic as a resource and looking at how we can keep it, and other materials like glass and aluminium, in the clean loop of recycling.
Waste is not only an issue that affects health, neither does it only create serious problems for the environment; it is now a valuable resource that can provide raw materials for production, nutrients for agriculture, and a source of energy.
Plastic waste recycling can provide an opportunity to collect and dispose of plastic waste in the most environmental friendly way and it can be converted into a resource. In most of the situations, plastic waste recycling could also be economically viable, as it generates resources, which are in high demand. Plastic waste recycling also has a great potential for resource conservation and GHG emissions reduction, such as producing diesel fuel from plastic waste.1 Metric Ton Waste yielding 900 litres of Diesel conforming to highest quality diesel. Maharastra signs MOU to produce fuel from plastic.
Globally, 91% of plastics produced is not recycled. 8 million tonnes end up in the oceans every year. An empty bottle of average size has an energy potential of about 1 kWh, while an empty can has about 0.46 kWh but if this is thrown into residual waste, the energy is lost. Researcher creates sorting sensor-based technology that allows for many different types of materials to be sorted and re-cycled. This technology can process municipal solid waste and extract plastic and metals through various screening steps. The result is pure and high-value organic waste ready for reuse. Due to this High labour cost and quality control issues are reduced due to the automation of recycling. Through the automation, sorting is optimised which allows authorities to meet environmental standards for sorting.
The infamous plastic water bottles, after use, usually become garbage in landfills and each bottle can take up to 1000 years to biodegrade. Another popular method of disposal is the incineration of these bottles, which releases toxic fumes into the atmosphere, posing a serious health risk to consumers. But by reusing these very plastic bottles, we can take step towards a greener future. Polyester fibre, the recycled finished product of plastic bottles, is further used in the automobile industry as well as in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries, as packaging material
Plastics, which are naturally organic polymers of high molecular mass could be recycled and used as a composite materials in construction industries. Utilization of plastic waste has also shown to reduces the cost of materials, absorbs shock load, reduces water absorption and promotes green construction.
A better way of managing plastic waste which cannot be sustainably recycled would be to send it to efficient energy-from-waste facilities to produce electricity, heat or fuel for the production of cement etc. – thereby saving fossil fuels.
Plastic waste is undoubtedly a major environmental concern. Our streets, beaches and oceans are testament to its far-reaching effects – but with the right action, we can turn the tide. In fact, it may already have begun to turn, with policymakers across the globe setting ambitious recycling targets and new regulations showing a shift to a more circular economy.