The world is currently facing a pollution problem. With so much production and manufacturing, air and water pollution are issues that need to be addressed head-on. Many of the materials being mass produced for everyday home and retail use find their way into landfill sites where they stay for many, many years. This includes plastic waste. While plastic is convenient, its disposal is a challenge with widespread implications on the environment.
Plastic Use Considerations
There are many benefits to using plastic. Plastic is a very versatile material. It comes in different types and can be molded and shaped into any and every shape imaginable. Some plastics are hard and resilient, while others can be made into extremely thin layers. Plastics are affordable and can be produced from a range of natural materials including crude oil, natural gas, coal, and cellulose.
All these advantages make plastic a favorite choice in the packaging industry. Many food, drink, and personal care items come packaged in plastic. Electronics, toys, tools, and so many other items also use plastic packaging. Harder plastics like PVC are widely used in the construction industry.
Despite all the financial and functional benefits of plastic, there are quite a few challenges presented by its widespread use. The main one is that plastic results in a lot of waste that harms the Earth in many different ways. Most types of plastics are non-biodegradable, which means that when they are discarded in landfills, they stay in the soil for thousands of years because they cannot be broken down naturally. Unlike food and wood waste, there are no naturally occurring enzymes that can break down the long carbon chains that make up the plastic. Other ways of disposing of all this plastic include incineration, but even this has its own challenges.
Effects of Plastic Pollution
The mass use of plastic is a huge global concern. Many plastics are manufactured for single use. This means that after someone is done drinking their soda, applying their lotion, or packing their groceries, they very often have no option but to chuck the remaining container or grocery bag in the trash. The sacrifice is great because, for one moment of convenience, that plastic creates a great waste disposal problem.
Landfills are filling up fast of tons and tons of waste plastic. This is taking up more and more space and harming the animal life in such areas. Incineration is an option, but the result of this is releasing a lot of carbon dioxide and some other harmful gases into the environment. Excess carbon dioxide adds to the Greenhouse Effect and global warming.
Many waste plastics find their way into various water bodies. This can happen through deliberate illegal disposal. This is happening at an alarming rate. Plastics in rivers, waterways, and in the ocean have many harmful effects. It can block pipes, drainage, and waterways. It also presents a choking hazard to the different forms of animal life in these water bodies. Removing plastics in the ocean is a major cost.
Tackling Plastic Pollution
There are many ways to address the issue of plastic waste, and everyone has a part to play. Firstly, reducing plastic production and use can be an effective solution to cuts down on the waste at the source. There are many alternatives such as paper bags. Additionally, scientists are working hard to produce more options including biodegradable plastic-like materials to serve the packaging sector.
Other ways to combat the plastic challenge include educating people about the effects of plastic pollution and the benefits of reusing and recycling plastic. Penalties for large scale polluters are already in place, and these play an important role.