Plastics have transformed our everyday life and with the increase in population, the usage as well as disposal of plastic has increased manifold. Since 1950 till date, a few billion tonnes of plastics have been produced worldwide, of which only ( approximately ) 9% and 12% have been recycled and incinerated respectively. Plastics are made up of synthetic organic polymers which are widely used in different applications, ranging from water bottles, clothing, food packaging, medical supplies, electronic goods and so on. Although, plastic was initially assumed to be harmless and inert, many years of plastic disposal into the environment has led to several escalating problems. Plastic pollution causes harm to humans, animals and plants through toxic pollutants. It can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic to break down and that itself is a massive problem. Currently it is estimated that 100 million animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean.
TOXIC IMPACT OF PLASTIC ON HUMAN HEALTH :
Varities of plastics used in the production and packing of many consumable products including medical devices, food packaging and water bottles, contain toxic chemicals like Phthalates, heavy metals, Nonylphenol, Phenathrene, etc. Long term usage as well as exposure of plastic products to high temperatures can lead to leaching of toxic chemical constituents into food, drinks and water. Microplastics entering the human body via direct exposures through ingestion or inhalation can lead to a large number of health problems. Several health hazards like irritation in the eye, vision failure, breathing difficulties, respiratory problems, liver dysfunction, cancer, skin diseases, lung problem, headache, nerve/brain damage, kidney disease and other ailments can be caused by plastics.
HAZARDOUS IMPACT OF PLASTIC ON ENVIRONMENT :
The durability of plastics and their potential for diverse applications, including widespread use as disposable items, have made plastics very popular and widely used. However, the problems associated with waste management and plastic debris are causing severe environmental damage. Plastics are made from several toxic ingredients that include Phthalates, Poly-fluorinated chemicals, Brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide which can leach out to have adverse effects on environmental and public health. Most of the time, sheeting and packaging plastics ( which are huge in volume ), are disposed of after use but owing to their durability, they remain present everywhere, for a very long span. They stick around in the environment for ages, clogging up drains, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. Trash can travel throughout the world’s rivers and oceans, accumulating on beaches and within gyres. These debris harm physical habitats, transport chemical pollutants, threaten acquatic life and interfere with human uses of rivers, marine and coastal environments. Fish, sea birds and marine mammals can become entangled in or ingest plastic debris, resulting in suffocation, starvation and drowning. Globally, 1,00,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic pollution.
REMEDIES : HOW TO REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION?
In order to reduce plastic pollution, first we need to reduce or stop using plastic, until and unless absolutely necessary. It is much better to use bio-degradable substances like Jute, Paper, etc. Another important step is to recycle plastic, as it is not easily perishable. Plastic waste is also largely used for land-filling and it is the commonest waste management approach. Incineration of plastic waste is another option, but in that case, there remains a chance of atmospheric release of hazardous chemicals which are detrimental to health.