Plastic – One of the best inventions of man.
Plastic is light-weight, durable, low-cost, and has a wide variety of application ranging from a pen, which you use to write on the paper, to the waste paper basket, into which you throw the paper. Plastic undoubtedly has been the one of the greatest achievements by man. (Well, not comparable to the wheel though!) Anyhow, plastic has proved to be a boon in various ways. When you enter a hospital, you can never fail to notice plastic vials, bottles, syringes, tubes, and many more articles made of plastic; those which are used to save many lives everyday all around the globe. As I did mention above, plastic has replaced metals and glass as the primary material used in the manufacture of pens. To use metals to manufacture pens would be costly and using glass, though cheap, it is not a durable material. Plastic is used in the manufacture of thousands of home use articles such as boxes, cases, bottles, containers, tumblers, chairs, tables, and many more. It also, in some way or the other forms a part of almost all electrical equipment, be it the sheathing of a wire or a plug casing, or even the keys of your cell phone. Plastic finds itself in automobile, and aircraft parts; in kids’ toys, and everyday articles like a brush or a comb.
The extent of exploitation of plastic is unimaginable and never-ending. We have become exceedingly dependent on plastic, which is produced in large quantities every single day to suffice the demands for it. Plastic, though seems a very useful material, it has a very dangerous string attached to it. It is non-biodegradable; which means, it cannot be broken down further or changed in anyway by any organism acting on it. If you bury a leaf and a plastic article under the earth for hundred years; the leaf would have turned to humus and would have fertilized the earth whereas, plastic on the other hand would remain in the same state however long you wait for it. To put it in simple words, plastic once manufactured cannot be destroyed in any way. The magnitude of this property of plastic can be realized only after careful study of its direct and indirect effects that it has poised upon the environment around us. To think of a few,
- Plastic waste accumulated in land fills amount to a lot of soil pollution over the years since they are non-biodegradable.
- When plastic is burnt, the harmful fumes enter into the atmosphere and has direct effects upon someone who breathes it. And so, NO! we cannot eliminate plastic by burning it.
- Plastic also finds its way into drains and sewage pipes, clogging them; more often than not, this may lead to water pollution directly and/or indirectly.
- Animals sometimes, feed on plastic and die painfully as plastic chokes their digestive and respiratory tracts. This is a very serious concern in many countries worldwide.
- There have also been incidents of little children suffocating while playing with plastic bags and toys.
The ‘facts’ mentioned above are only a few examples of what plastic can do. It’s time that we wake up and stop this menace. Since it is obvious that plastic cannot be routed out completely, we must at least try and reduce our dependency on it. A little good deed to keep our planet clean and safe isn’t too much of as asking, is it? I’ve jotted down a few things that we could do to minimize the plastic that we use in our day-to-day life. Let us try and practice them whenever possible.
- Avoid accepting plastic bags when you finish shopping. Instead, carry a paper or a jute bag with you when you go shopping.
- Avoid disposing of plastic along with organic wastes. Do not throw waste food in plastic bags or containers. You might just save a life.
- Avoid using plastic chairs or tables, you could use wood/metal instead.
- Plastic is made from crude oil. So lesser usage of plastic also means lesser demand for crude oil products.
- Keep plastic articles and toys (with small parts) away from the reach of little children. Always supervise kids when they are working with such potential plastic articles.
- Do not dispose plastic which can be recycled. That’s another means to reduce production of more plastic.
All through our discussion here, we have noted the ill-effects that plastic has brought upon us and also ways to minimize those effects by the ‘3R’ policy – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. For those of us who are not aware, plastic comes broadly in two varieties: Recyclable and of course, the evil counterpart, non-recyclable. Recyclable plastic can be directly sent over to recycling plants where they are melted and remoulded as per requirements. The plastic that undergoes the recycling process results in a lower quality product. Hence, such plastic has reduced application range in today’s world. Our aim should be to increase the domain of usage of such lower quality plastic and ensure that we have an equal demand for recycled plastic as much as we have for good quality plastic.
The more hazardous variant of plastic, the non-recyclable poses a greater threat to our environment. The trouble arises because we have no definitive way of disposing this plastic and hence it lives on in nature forever. A few steps that could be taken to tackle this problem are:
- Governments should ban production of non-recyclable plastic and also the manufacture of products that use them.
- Non-recyclable plastic can be used for asphalting roads, as supplementary building materials, and as supportive structures.
- Extensive research must take place in finding better methods of disposing non-recyclable plastic.
- People must be educated about the benefits of recycling and must be taught to avoid the usage of non-recyclable plastic.
- As common people, the least we could do before buying a plastic article is to look at the label to find out if it is recyclable.
In conclusion, everyone of us know that plastic is here to stay. But how we let it stay is left to us. Let us make better use of what nature has given us.