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RSTV-The Plastic Menace(The Big Picture)

 PLASTIC POLLUTION

1.”Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. About 60% of that plastic has ended up in either a landfill or the natural environment.The same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to completely break down. Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just get smaller and smaller. Many of these tiny plastic particles are swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake them for food, and thus can find their way onto our dinner plates. They’ve also been found in a majority of the world’s tap water…..”…’Beat Plastic Initiative’,UNEP.

2.According to Environment Ministry about 20,000 Tonnes of Plastic waste is generated in the country everyday out of which only about 13,000 tonnes is collected.Experts have maintained that the problem lies in the inadequate collection of the Plastic waste. Plastic was popularised in the 1960s as a convenient material for everyday use. The problems caused by single use plastics (SUPs) were recognised in 2007.

3.United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) had declared the theme for World Environment Day 2018 as ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. It was hosted by India. As a part of the event, the government had announced its intention to phase out single-use plastic by 2022.Plastic waste has been observed everywhere, from the depths of the oceans to the peaks of Himalayas. Plastic can’t be removed entirely from the planet because it has many advantages as a material for daily use and in specialty applications. Saudi Arabia plans to invest in India to produce more petrochemicals and plastic, slowly transforming India into one of the biggest producers and consumers of plastic.

4.Plastics do not decay in the soil but undergoes wear and tear and disintegrates into micron sized particles (micro plastics).Plastics may disappear from the eyes but the invisible micro plastics remain to cause problems.There are no credible estimates about the quantity of micro plastics present in the soil and oceans.In a recent research micro plastics were found in the snow samples collected from the Svalbard islands of the Arctic sea.Uncollected SUPs accumulate in the water bodies and clogs the drains before ultimately reaching the oceans.The North Pacific Garbage Dump/Gyre is an example of accumulation of plastic in the ocean.The garbage gyre churns the plastic waste and produces much more micro plastics.

5.Plastics are non-biodegradable, synthetic polymers. They are made-up of long chain hydrocarbons with additives and can be moulded into finished products.These polymers are broken into monomers such as ethylene, propylene, vinyl, styrene and benzene etc.Since plastic does not decompose into a natural substance like soil, it degrades (break down) into tiny particles after many years. In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic) which make their way into our food and water supply.These toxic chemicals are now being found in our bloodstream. Causing cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity and many other ailments.

6.Regulation of Single Use Plastics (SUPs) is a major problem the world is battling at this point of time.SUPs are used only once and thrown into the environment.Consumers find SUPs such as food packaging (especially in home delivery of food), disposable glasses, straws much more convenient to useThe main problem lies in the inadequate collection and recycling systems.

7.Health issues:Micro plastics may accumulate in the lungs and blood streams and cause severe consequences.Carcinogenic chemicals such as furans and dioxins are released by the burning or pyrolysis of plastic.People often drink hot water in PET bottles and consume harmful components.

8.Shopkeepers need to charge a price for plastic carry bags and encourage customers to bring cloth bags and glass/metal containers from home. Ex.: Mother Dairy outlets provide milk in containers brought from home.Customers can ensure the quality of the products since they could see and taste it directly.Segregation, collection and disposal of plastic waste needs to be done in a proper scientificAlternate materials should be mass produced so that they become affordable with the help of economy of scale and large demand.Appropriate funding should be provided for a comprehensive research to identify and quantify the plastic waste and detect the sources.A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of each type of plastic need to be carried out, considering the environmental and health costs.

Global Plastics Platform-UNEP

The UN Environment Global Plastics Platform will build on and further advance the efforts made by the European Union, the G7, the G20, the UN Environment Assembly and existing initiatives and partnerships, such as the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, supported by the World Economic Forum, the New Plastics Economy of Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and the work of the Regional Seas Conventions across the world.

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