Urgency of Plastic Waste Disposal

In today’s world one of the major issues that we have been ignoring is Plastic Waste Disposal. It has been identified as one of the major issues that needs to be taken care of. Plastic is usually non-biodegradable and if put into a dump site can be there for centuries.

By 2015, humankind had manufactured 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff and generated 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste. Of this, 9% was recycled and 12% incinerated. The vast majority, 79%, was tossed in to ocean and landfilling sites, the team reports today in Science Advances.

Plastic Waste Stats

Plastic Waste Stats | Image Source : statista.com

  1. Effect of plastic waste on Marine Life Because of poor plastic waste disposal habits, Plastic has creeped in to everything we do in our daily life. We literally deal with plastic every minute: Plastic cups, milk cartons lined with plastic, grocery bags, Plastic tiffin, coffee cup lids, Water bottles, fruit juice straw, plastic packaging, — this list is never ending. Plastic products are easily available however the impact of it in a long run is huge.The amount of plastic produced in the last 10 years is more than what we produced since the time it was invented in Year 1907 till Year 2007. And every year, billions of tonnes of this plastic waste is ending up in our ocean.

    Majority of the plastic waste ends up in ocean from land via rain and wind. Once plastic is in water, there is a continuous accumulation of this pile. Plastic is non-bio degradable and can remain in its original form for decades. As per EPA, every bit of plastic ever ended up in ocean still exists.

    Majority of the plastic being light weight, can get transported long distance in the ocean from source areas via Gyres (large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements). All the Gyres in major oceans of earth is plagued with tonnes of plastic waste. The situation is worse as its not limited to Gyres but approximately 60 Trillion tonnes of plastic waste is currently in our ocean. As per the recent study, there is not even a single square kilometre of ocean in the world which is not polluted with plastic waste.

    Plastic doesn’t just accumulate in the oceans and look unpleasant but has been a reason for hurting and killing huge numbers of marine life all over the world. Marine animals confuse plastic litter with food and its ingestion has led to a lot of deaths in a variety of species in the last few decades. Recently, a plastic DVD case dumped in the ocean was the cause of death for SEI Whale in Chesapeake. This whale ingested plastic DVD shell which caused laceration in its stomach had made her unable to feed. These types of cases are very common among marine animals and are increasing rapidly. Also, in Spain, a sperm whale was killed due to intestinal blockage because of plastic waste in its intestine weighing 37 pounds.

    As per the recent researches, due to non-existent / poor plastic waste disposal , ingestion of plastic kills 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year.

    Sadly, ingestion of plastic waste is not the only issue for marine life but plastic waste disposal in oceans has led to animals getting entangled and eventually dying because of this. As per the NOAA report, close to 200 different marine species worldwide have been reported suffering entanglements, making their movement, feeding and even growth difficult.

  2. Effect of plastic waste on Earth

    The effects of plastic on the environment is quite alarming. While there are always various campaigns to ban use of plastic, countered with objections because of the usability it offers, the continuous damage to the environment needs to be controlled.

    There is no strict way to implement ban on plastic usage however there are technologies already available for effective plastic waste disposal.

    The first step towards caring for the environments starts with reusing the plastic that is available. However, once it is soiled or tarred, it again ends up in trash and eventually landfill for burning or ocean.

    Either of these options is harmful for the environment. Burning plastic releases SOX, NOX and other gases (toxic gases) that harm the ozone and increase the level of harmful particles in the air while landfills keep this plastic waste for indefinite time as it takes hundreds of years for plastic to break down.

  3. Effect of Plastic Pollution on Food Chain

    Plastic is manufactured as a by-product of manufacturing petroleum from crude oil.
    Majority of the chemicals used to manufacture plastic are highly toxic and harmful. Like everything else which is manufactured out of crude oil, even plastic cannot be biodegraded naturally. When these chemicals from plastics are introduced to the soil from landfilling and dumping sites, it gets released in the surroundings soil which in turn gets transferred to the plants and groundwater. There are many studies which clearly states the impact of lead and chlorine poisoning due to poor plastic waste disposal in an uncontrolled way to locations which are near to a water body or the farm. Also, when plastic ends up in ocean or water body, it not only impacts the free flow of water leading to parasite breeding but also gets consumed by aquatic animals including fishes. As per the article in Japan times, there are types of plastics which contains toxic additives so that its durability can be increased. These additives like nonylphenol, which is a type of endocrine disruptor is a cause for breast cancer and endometriosis.

    These are just a few examples of how this is a serious concern and why there is a need for Urgency in Plastic Waste Disposal.

Whats the Road Ahead

Reduce Reuse Recycle

Image Resource: google.com

To handle this alarming issue of uncontrolled plastic waste disposal, our human race came with the three R principles i.e.

Refuse, Reduce and Reuse:
Refusing to use single use plastics such as plastic cups, fruit juice straws, plastic bottles, Multi layered milk pouches etc and instead using multi use glassware or metal ware et cetera. However, refusing to use plastic would not make an impact unless the majority of population believes in this.

Some daily habits that can reduce waste:

  1. Avoid using disposable plastic plates, spoons, glass, cups and napkins. Instead use your own plates and spoon which can be used again and again.
  2. Avoid buys items which comes with a lot of packaging. This excess plastic packaging ends up as waste that can’t be recycled.
  3. Buy products which offer long term durability so that you don’t end up buying more and increase landfill load.

Reduce the use of plastic in your life and instead use bio degradable material instead. Start by carrying cloth or jute bag when visiting grocery store instead of using plastic bags.

However, these methods will not be effective for the plastic that we have already produced and dumped in the world. For us to be able to ensure that we reduce the load of this pollution on earth, we will have start with cleaning the waste accumulated already.

Plastic waste disposal is not a responsibility for a few but a responsibility that we all have to share.

There are already technologies which can do reverse engineering and produce oil from plastic without any pollution or harmful residues i.e. Pyrolysis, so that it can be used again instead of ending up in landfilling sites and oceans.

As per the market leaders in Pyrolysis plants Agile Process Chemicals, Plastic to oil is chemical technology for converting waste plastic into Pyrolysis Oil, Carbon Black and Hydrocarbon Gas. This reaction takes place inside pyrolysis reactor. Following reaction conditions are essential for conversation of plastic to oil.

Plastic Waste Life Cycle | Image Source: pyrolysisplant.com

There is a need for people to know that reducing the use of plastic should be adapted however we also have to take the step in cleaning the waste.