Today, you can hardly look around you and not spot some item that is made entirely from plastic or has some plastic ingredient. Almost every market that you go today, you will see people carrying their shopping items in plastic bags. This only proves that from its inception up to now plastic has managed to become popular building material of millions of useful items, but it is not perfect.
Right from food items to clothes to shoes, there is hardly any item that we do not use a plastic bag to carry. However, before stuffing your home with different styles, colours and shapes of plastic bags, have you ever considered the dangers that are inherent in using them?
Plastic has several disadvantages that prevent it from becoming universal building block of modern human civilization, and because of that many governments strictly control its use and create complex law that govern its creation, recycling and environmental impact of waste plastic and chemicals that are used in its creation.
Ever increasing plastic production since 1950s managed to saturate world with waste plastic product that can cause big effects on our environment. Decomposing of plastic product can last from 400 to 1000 years with newer “degradable” compounds, but before that degradation can happen waste plastic will continue to clog our waterways, oceans, forests, and other natural habitats that are filled with animals who mistake dangerous plastic for food. Chemical dangers are also high, because both creation and recycling of plastic produce toxic materials of many kinds.
Here are some of the biggest impacts plastic has on our environment:
Plastic is light, mouldable, sturdy, and can have countless forms, but one of the most known features is its durability. Plastic is artificially created polymer compound which can survive many centuries before nature is able to degrade it (some degrade into basic ingredients and some only divide into very small pieces). This troublesome ability of plastic doesn’t have great immediate impact on our environment, but its continuous dumping into seas and land will eventually create problems for future generations. Even with all this durability, plastic products are not indestructible and it cannot be used as a basic building block for everything we need.
Not only that creation and recycling of plastic can cause serious environmental risk, but some of the additives that are infused in plastic can cause permanent harm to our metabolism. Chemicals such as phthalates and BPA are widely used as an additive that prevents degrading of plastic structure, but they also interfere with our natural hormone levels which can cause serious problems to both males and females (lower testosterone levels in men, and premature girl puberty).
Threat To Animal Life
As per Marrickville Council of Australia, as many as 100,000 whales, turtles and birds die have been reported to die every year, mainly because of plastic in their environment. Plastic bags not only have adverse effects on our natural habitats, but have also been found to be responsible for the death of many animals, mainly on account of the suffocation encountered on eating them.
Plastic is one of the most popular building materials for small items. This is most evident in toy industry, where vast majority of children toys is manufactured with plastic. These toys and small plastic objects of many uses can easily get into children’s hands (especially babies and toddlers) that unknowingly put them in their mouth. To prevent these serious accidents, governments have implemented detailed set of rules which force manufacturers to clearly label their plastic products and warn users of the possible chocking potential. Another problematic plastic product that can cause serious injuries or death are plastic bags (grocery or trash bags)who can sometimes end up wrapped around children faces, disrupting their breathing.
Like I mentioned above, not only animals, infants and young children have also been reported to have lost their life, on account of plastic bags. Since plastic bags are thin and airtight as well, children often end up blocking their mouths and nostrils with them. In case they are not being monitored by an adult, this leads to suffocation and, in some cases, even death.
Plastic bags have been known to cause a lot of environmental damage. A single plastic bag can take up to around 400 to 1000 years, to decay completely. This makes the bags stay in environments longer, in turn leading to great build-up on the natural landscape (much more than degradable materials like paper). In other words, the more plastic bags you use, the greater the chances of environmental damage.
Plastic bags are extremely durable. In case you are thinking of this as an advantage, just bring to mind an image of the huge landfill that you visited on the city outskirts, the other day. In most probability, majority of the rubbish present there will comprise of plastic bags only. In other words, plastic bags have led to a great increase in the pollution levels.
Since plastic bags are not bio-degradable, the only way to get rid of them is to burn them up. Though lighting a match to them is easy, it has more than its fair share of disadvantages. The biggest of them is that smouldering plastics can release toxic fumes into the environment, in turn taking the air pollution to much higher levels.
One of the main disadvantages of plastic bags is that they are not renewable. The reason behind this is that they are made of petrochemicals, a non-renewable source of energy. They can be recycled, but not as easily as paper bags. In other words, long after you are no more, the plastic bag used by you will be in existence.
I know there are people who are finding ways to stop, reduce or replace plastic bags with something that can be recycled and fingers crossed hope they are successful some day. But till then it is each person’s responsibility to minimize the use of plastic bags. Don’t say, “Bhaiya, thayli dena” for every single thing. Carry your own bag when you go shopping.