In the 1950s , plastic production took off. Since then it has truly been revolutionary. Plastic has made a deep impact in nearly every field of our lives. Every year about 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced which is equal to the weight of the entire human species. In one minute , a million plastic bottles are bought around the world and approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide with the average time of use being 12 minutes. Currently there is about 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste in the world and around 5.3 million to 14 million tonnes of plastic waste is found each year from coastal regions. Granted, plastic has its advantages but the facts and figures all point to plastic being construed as a true villain only.
The recycling symbol is one everyone is familiar with these days. For a lot of people environmentalism starts and ends at the recycling bin. The act of putting plastic in the recycling bin gives many of us a sense of self satisfaction. Although the process of recycling is complicated iiser being encouraged all over the world as the popularity and use of plastic is increasing worldwide.
Since the 1950s nearly 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced but only 9 percent of it has been recycled. Over the past 50 years the production of plastic has doubled worldwide which only makes it all the more important to come up with ways to save our planet.
Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new products. It is beneficial not only to the environment but also to the economy. This is because it takes less energy and money to process recycled materials. A recent study has shown that production using recycled aluminium cuts the cost in half. Recycling also leads to the reduction in the number of landfills which means more land can be put to economic ise. Strengthening the recycling industry also creates job opportunities, especially in big cities.
Plastic pollution sets us back by nearly 13 billion dollars per year. But this clearly isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is. Abstaining from buying and using plastic is naturally a goood method to reduce pollution but in this fast growing age there exist a lot of innovative ideas as well.
Ahmed Khan, a plastic sack manufacturer has found an ideal way to use plastic in the construction of roads. His company has developed Polyblend, a powder of recycled plastic waste which when mixed with bitumen enhances its water repellant properties, thus increasing road life by a factor of three. By 2002, more than 40 kilometers of road has been laid in Banglore using this method.
In 2016, scientists found a way to break down polyethylene based single plastics into an alkene, a hydrocarbon generally known as ‘diesel fuel’. Over 50 percent of plastics can be used as fuel. Although this contributes to climate change it still cuts down on plastic pollution.
Eco-bricking is also something which has now turned into a global event. An eco-brick is a large two litre bottle stuffed with single use plastics. These can then be used to build structures from chairs to houses! They are cheap and strong and very durable ad plastic can last virtually forever.
Although biodegradable plastic was written off in 2015 by the United Nations Environment Program as an unrealistic solution, much progress has been made on that front as well. Polymateria , a British firm has been developing chemical additives which will help plastic decompose more quickly.
All the above mentioned methods provide hope to us humans who are now drowning in plastic. As McKenzie Jones said “while recycling is great in a lot of ways, thr ultimate goal is to get people to prevent waste in the first place.” Although it’s a tall order , a ‘zero plastic world’ is indeed possible. Through simple acts such as giving up plastic straws and bags we are extending the life span of our planet. It might take a little time to get started but humankind can definitely turn the tide on plastic pollution.