Since the first synthesis of Plastic Polymer by Leo Hendrick Baekeland (A Belgian-born, American born chemist) using phenol and formaldehyde. Researchers in the fields of chemistry have achieved a milestone as plastic Sphere is inexpensive, mold-able and widely in use in today’s life. People were attracted to this product as a thief of a gold brick because of its cheapness and availability. Plastics Sphere is dangerous for all the living things.
I remember when I was a kid, Coke and other frizzy drinks were sold in glass bottles. Jams and jellies had glass caddies. Most of the products were sold in glass containers. Along with glass containers the grocery bags were used to be simple brown “Paper” bags. Most of the items freshly cooked were served in brown paper bags (especially samosas, famous food of South-Asian counties and is very delicious when served hot) but with the increased yield of plastic products and its cost-effectiveness compared to glass and paper made plastic rule this very industry of packaging, storing, transporting and food and many more. Plastics is now an important part of our lives. The whole world has its eyes on this new product: Plastic.
At the time of synthesis, it was considered distinctive because of the fact that it does not degrade (yes, scientists have the process but on average a plastic bottle takes around 450 years to degrade biologically), but Chemists were somehow unaware that this distinction and uniqueness will cause the biggest problem in the next century. Environmentalist today are so concerned about this “distinctive” feature of this product which now resides in our homes, landfill sites, parks, recreational areas, high on mountains, on roadsides, in lakes and even deep down in oceans. Plastic does not degrade and hence produces waste as same as the yield, so more demand=more yield=more waste because most of the plastic bottles and other products are non-recyclable making heaps of waste. Plastic pollution is not just confined to heaps of plastic waste but also threats marine life and Environmentalists and Health Inspectors have come up with findings that Overly used plastic products including baby bottles is causing chemically linked diseases in Human Beings such as Hepatitis, Heart Diseases, and even Diabetes.
A special thanks to all the people littering at beaches in summers and road-sides while driving, adding up to plastic pollution. Plastic litter on shore washes into the seas and oceans by the waves and enters the ocean easily. If any of the litter enters the gyres, it keeps on circulating between the whirlpool and might break into little pieces which can be mistaken by marine life and thus engulfed by them posing some serious threat to the marine ecosystem. Back in years, several cases were reported when sea turtles died just because of swallowing the plastic bags left by people visiting the beach.
Scientists have found out:
- Plastics made up 99.9% of all debris in this part of the ocean
- At least 46% of plastic consisted of fishing nets, and over three-quarters of the plastic was debris larger than 5cm, including hard plastics, plastics sheets, and film
- Although most large items had broken down into fragments, the researchers were able to identify a small number of objects, including containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps, ropes, and fishing nets
- Fifty items in the sample had a readable production date: one from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s and one from 2010
- Only certain types of debris that were thick enough to float stayed and accumulated in this zone, such as the common plastics polyethylene and polypropylene, which are used in packaging.
Source: Scientific Reports
This pollution is not only limited to the marine ecosystem but also poses some major threats to grassland as well as forest ecosystems.
A paper authored by the industrial ecologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues appears in the journal Science Advances. It is described as the first truly global assessment of how much plastic has been manufactured, how the material in all its forms is used, and where it ends up. Here are some of its key numbers.
- 8,300 million tons of virgin plastics have been produced
- Half of this material was made in just the past 13 years
- About 30% of the historic production remains in use today
- Of the discarded it, roughly 9% has been recycled
- Some 12% has been incinerated, but 79% has gone to landfill
- Shortest-use items are packaging, typically less than a year
- Longest-use products are found in construction and machinery
- Current trends point to 12 billion tons of waste by 2050
- Recycling rates in 2014: Europe (30%), China (25%), US (9%)
This is the very alarming situation for the environment. The global waste industry needs to get its act together and make sure that the ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste generated don’t end up in the environment. (Dr. Erik van Sebille ) or soon we will be facing a plastic tsunami!