In recent days it became a trend in the film industry to release a short trailer before the movie release to provoke the thinking of the audience about the movie content and to give a brief introduction about the forthcoming movie. Likewise, a brief introduction about the plastic is inevitable before addressing many key issues related to it. Plastic is a synthetic polymer that is highly malleable and can be molded into many different forms as per the need. The first fully synthetic plastic invented was bakelite (polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride) that is formed by the condensation reaction between formaldehyde and phenol. It is invented by the Belgian Chemist Leo Baekeland in the year 1907. Since its invention, it has had a broad range of applications, starting from small household items to transport vehicles, building construction, scientific equipment, and so on, where its use became part of life due to its inevitable features. Besides these wide ranges of applications, it also imposes an equal amount of threat to the environment. Before discussing these aspects some questions are to be answered. The primary question arises is that why people invented plastic, why they have adopted it into their lifestyle, and why plastic is a threat to the environment and the life of living beings.
Why plastic is invented ..???
Plastic is invented primarily to substitute natural resources for various industrial and household purposes. Succeeding its invention its manufacturing was accelerated during the times of world war II by the Americans. The great depression followed by world war II hit the American economy very badly. They formulated that the remedy to revive their economy by accelerating industrial production, specifically through the manufacturing of plastic that can be easily molded to various forms. They have accelerated the plastic industry without thinking about the consequence of it. Thereafter the plastic became an effective alternative around the world that changed the very lifestyle of a human being.
Why plastic is extensively adopted into our lifestyles…??
Before looking into this topic, a basic question needed to be raised. Can we imagine a home without plastic being involved? The answer to this is a clear no. These days in a typical home several things are made of plastic such as chairs, containers, kitchen appliances, taps, pipes, etc. They are involved in almost every division/sector of life including household materials, electronic goods, transportation, and industrial machinery. These extensive applications made them irreplaceable and made them penetrate deep into our lifestyles.
Why plastic is a threat…???
After usage of any material, it must be withdrawn from its habitat after its life expectancy was completed this statement holds for both living and non-living things. This discard is degraded into the safest substances by the biological agents known as biodegrades. And the substances thus degraded are known as biodegradable. But plastic after its usage is not biodegradable it remains as it is even after the biodegrades acted on them. These remnants of plastic are highly toxic to the countless aspects of life on earth. As it is not biodegradable when discarded on the land they mix up the soil and reaches the drinking water. Recently many reports make evident that 83% of the drinking water on earth contains the remnants of plastic. Reports also suggest that the US tops the list of plastic polluted water with India at the third position among the world countries. This practice of drinking plastic integrated water imposes adverse effects on the lives of the people. In an attempt to decompose it many times plastic is incinerated producing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to increased rates of global warming and eventually leading to the climate change crisis. Every year nearly 275 million tonnes of plastic wastage was created, from this, around 12 million tonnes of wastage was dumped into world oceans. This dumping of plastic into the oceans shows adverse effects on marine life such as marine mammals, fishes, turtles. Ocean dumped plastic will be in reduced size as a reason it is often considered as prey by the marine life and they feed them, plastic blocks the digestive tract of them and finally results in their death. When these marine organisms such as fishes contain the plastic in their stomach upon human consumption it also shows an effect on human health. Often these turn carcinogen and lead to cancer. Not only the plastic but also the effluents of the plastic industries that are released into air and water leads to several respiratory and digestive disorders respectively. In addition to this pollution promotion of fresh produce of plastic on large scale even exacerbates the situation.
After examining the above instances made one thing clear is that the lack of effective methods for decomposing/discarding the plastic and lack of regulations on the production of plastic.
Even if we set up worldwide institutions or national institutions to address the above two issues it is clear that money apart from the regular economy of the nation needed to be invested in this aspect. This is the sole reason for the slower pace of reforms on this aspect. A probable solution to this problem is creating wealth from plastic waste. New advances can be made utilizing this idea of waste to wealth. It is more important that we can innovatively convert plastic to wealth while making it easily bio-degradable. And by incorporating effective recycling protocols one can generate wealth as well as limit the production of plastic. By setting up these types of institutions by policymakers of the country can turn them self-reliant on economic scales to handle these issues effectively and can increase employment and investments in this area that boosts the economy of a country.
Hard to recycle plastic can be used to construct houses which can save both money and the environment these steps are in use in some parts of the world. As plastics are an amalgamation of various chemicals, by the exploration of the plastic chemistry one can alter them and can produce electricity from the plastic wastage. This statement of mine can be supported by a study of an American institute Earth engineering center at Columbia. They have reported that using non-recyclable plastic can be used to extract energy and can be converted into electricity that can be used to supply it to as many as 13.8 million houses. Plastic waste can be used to make the body of the cars rather than preferring other materials such as steel, fibers. Textiles can also be manufactured using plastic waste. The irony is when plastic is dumped into the ocean it damages the ocean but it may also re-cycled into a boat which serves as an effective means of transport.
The bottom line of this essay is that innovation may not start always from an institutional scale but should start from an individual level. Reforms at the individual level reflect the reforms at the population level. Making wealth out of plastic wastage should not stop with ideas, those should be implemented as and when possible. Effective collaborations between public sector driven research with private partners can yield both easily degradable plastic and revenue for the nation.
We may not eat the dregs of the rice but we can feed it to the cattle, we may not drink the sewage water but it can be used to extinguish the fire. Nothing is useless/worthless in this world, an eye to exploring is needed.