What is the first thought that comes into mind when someone hears the word ‘Plastic’? Well, maybe something which is a trash, something which is harmful for our environment, something which we are again and again reminded to recycle of and something which does not gets along well with our ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan’. These are the general perceptions that general people have about plastics in their head. But what exactly plastic is? Plastics are organic materials formed by polymerization that may be shaped according to use. It is composed of various elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and chlorine. Plastics pose a threat to our environment through toxic pollutants. Moreover, it takes thousands of years to decompose. Small fragments of plastics are being consumed by animals which causes severe defects such as malnutrition. “Not all plastics are recyclable and not every recyclable plastic is recycled”. The list of shortcomings of plastics goes on and on. This plastic problem needs to be sorted, for which the government and several organizations and individuals come forward. Banning plastics as a whole is one of the solution to the problem approved by a majority. But one needs to understand a fact that not all single-use plastics should be banned. The drawbacks of plastics are more than enough to put a tag of ‘Waste’ to it, but, what could be better if this waste could turn out into a potential resource.
Plastics as a whole cannot be banned as they come handy to us in several ways. Every coin has two sides and so does plastics. Despite several disadvantages, they have many more benefits. After all, “turning your weakness into strength is the biggest success” and so is the conversion of plastic from waste to wealth. Plastics require less energy to produce, are cheap for the consumers to buy them and lighter to transport. It could be used for safe food and water packaging. According to a report, from IV tubing to syringes to saline bags, hospitals need plastic. It is thus for sure that plastics cannot be vanished, and we need to change the way we look at plastics and make the best use out of them.
Humans have created about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics till date and 1 million tons of plastic is produced every single day. What if we use our investment and make some income out of it? With the times changing, many people possessing a different outlook towards plastics have come forward and declared that plastic needs not to be considered a waste anymore and can turn out into a useful resource. According to a fact, it takes only 5 recycled two liters PET bottles to make enough fiberfill for a ski jacket. If recycled, in just 10 days these bottles can be used to create 74 million square feet of carpet or 16 million sweaters.
The conventional method of disposal of plastics involves recycling, incineration and land filling. This conventional approach was overtaken by new technologies involving plasma pyrolysis technology, liquid fuel, co-processing in cement kiln and polymer bended bitumen roads. A startup, Shayana Ecounified India Pvt. Ltd. by 2019 has successfully converted 290 tones of used plastics into tiles that may last up to 50 years. Another Pune based enterprise ‘Protoprint’ uses plastic waste to build filaments used in a 3D printer. India has succeeded to chemically convert plastic waste into cooking fuel. There are many more examples as such where the plastic that has been merely used for a few days and then dumped as waste has been converted into something useful and long-lasting. This new approach based on “Making best out of waste” has come a new way and opened a door to a room where plastic is much more than a waste.
Usage of plastic as a resource will not only help us to cure the natural troubles but would also be helpful economically. The setting up of such factories would give employment to thousands. Steps need not be taken only on the large scale. An individual can contribute into it by just recycling the plastic so that it reaches to some creative hands.
We neither can completely vanish plastic nor collect it to build a mountain out of it. A balance has to be created. Today efforts are being made by people to make plastic, which was earlier termed as trash, into something useful. Several attempts are being made, with a little more effort and help from the government many more organizations would emerge out and succeed in making plastic as a useful resource. This task of making plastic a resource is still under progress. Though the path of plastic from waste to wealth is not that straightforward but with innovative ideas and some funding we can build a handy destination. For making all these work out, the whole world needs to get together and each individual needs to come forward because “the world is changed by your example not by your opinion”.