Man’s Worst friend: Single-Use Plastic- Erakina

Published Date : March 16, 2022

If suddenly all humans on the earth vanish, what do you think will be still there even after 100 years of their wipeout?

I don’t think it will be a  hard guess.

It’s the waste we have been generating for years, and now that will be held on the earth. One such regular waste product we hold dearly is plastic bags. Around 1 million plastic bags are consumed/utilized per minute, and one-time use of it makes it worse. The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) is estimated to have a plastic waste of  23 -27 million tons (three times compared to 2016).

Ground covered with single-use plastic

In the world of plastic, nature barely exists

Origin Story

All the great and scary things will be accidental discoveries, and polyethylene is one such thing (in practice called polythene) that happened in 1933. This discovery was kept secret and used in Worldwar II. Karl Ziegler and Erhard Holzkamp brought out High-Density Poly Ethylene (HDPE), for which Ziegler was awarded a Nobel prize for chemistry in 1963. HDPE made plastic more cheap and accessible form. In 1965, a company named Celloplast patented the shopping plastic bags, invented by Sten Gustaf Thulin. Heavy advertising and marketing and its easy-to-use feature slowly replaced paper and cloth bags.

As the name conveys, Single-use plastic is used only once and thrown away or could be recycled. Unfortunately, less than 15 percent of the plastic waste generated is recycled.

Impact of single-use plastic

When the plastic has already reached the depths of oceans, the heights of mountains, common products in every house, and densely populated ice caps, the problem is intense, so will be the impact.

List of effects caused by single-use plastic

Few of the many impacts of single-use-plastic

  • Fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) are rich sources of hydro-carbon formed by decomposing plants and animals (takes years). The exploitation of such precious resources is needed to produce plastic.
  • The total greenhouse gas produced from an activity is called a carbon footprint. About 1.5 percent of global greenhouse gases are contributed by plastic (production and decomposition).
  • It is estimated that by 2050, 85 percent of marine pollution will be because of plastic waste.
  • Leaching plastic polymers in the food chain can lead to severe cancers and hormonal imbalances.
  • Several instances are reported where livestock, animals, and birds consume plastic, and with uncontrolled measures, the numbers tend to increase with unchecked efforts.

Do you know about the plastic rating?

Every plastic product we use has a coding number printed on the bottle or packet. Grab the nearest water bottle or any plastic product to verify it and read further.

Each number depicts the type of plastic used and its level of recyclability.

Plastic rating chart

What is your plastic number – is it safe or unsafe to recycle

By knowing this, the consumer can make a conscious decision in selecting the plastic bottle they are using. Check whether it is safe to use and also can be recycled?

What can we do?

As of 2022, the Government of India has also banned the usage of single-use plastic. Even after stringent regulations, adulteration creeps in because of a lack of awareness.

If you are a constant consumer of soft drinks, carry bamboo or steel straws (many easy-to-carry straws are available in the market) instead of using a new plastic straw every time.

Anusha Velamuri

12- March-2022

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