Living without plastics - easier said than done.

4 minute read 2020-12-08

Think about it for a moment - from alarm clocks to bikes, plastics have become an integral part of our lives.

Reality is that plastics have become such an integral part of our lives that it’s impossible to contemplate life without them.

Food packets and containers, water and soda bottles, kitchen countertops, chairs, clothes, trains and aeroplanes contain plastic. Plastics are also used for infrastructure and in the construction industry.

Why Plastic is Preferred.

Ever since plastic was invented, we have been finding many uses for it. It is safe to say that it is the most versatile material. What makes it so desirable is that it is durable, safe, strong, lightweight, impact-resistant, chemical resistant and waterproof. And most importantly, it is also cost effective and highly affordable. With advantages like these, it is hardly surprising that plastic is preferred over alternative materials in a wide variety of applications.

Plastic Protects Lives.

Just imagine for a moment if plastics weren’t around, our lives would be fraught with danger. The reassuring presence of medical equipments and accessories like syringes, IV bottles and pouches, safety helmets and belts, airbags, safety and protective gears make our lives that much more secure. If it weren’t for plastic, would we even be able to lead a secure life?

What’s Packaging without Plastics?

The next time you go shopping, look around you. How many packets and containers are made out of plastic or use plastic? Almost every product on the shelf! Manufacturers prefer plastic when packaging their goods because: It protects and preserves. B) It reduces weight of packaging thereby cutting fuel costs while transportation in the process reduce greenhouse emissions. C) It’s largely unbreakable, preventing substantial wastage.

Plastic VS Glass, Metal and Paper. Advantage, Plastic.

Yes, on the face of it, there are many alternatives to plastic, but how eco-friendly are they? Let’s take a closer look. Glass: Many experts are of the opinion that glass has always been the best material for transporting food and liquids. In fact, before the popularity of plastic, glass was the go-to material. The primary argument for glass is that it is transparent and can be recycled, thus it doesn’t become a part of a toxic landfill. However, glass though cheap to produce is thicker and more fragile. However, for packaging application it is substantially bulkier and less cost efficient. It is also more fuel-intensive when it comes to transportation. Which doesn’t make it a very practical alternative from a business or an environmental point of view. Metal: Metals are 3 to 5 times heavier than plastics and consume significantly more energy during the manufacturing and transportation. Moreover, it is susceptible to corrosion, and can only be used in a limited range of products. Paper: Paper has many disadvantages. It is not strong enough like plastics and absorbs moisture thereby further reducing the mechanical properties. Moisture ingression through paper packaging results in higher spoilage of products packed. Not only can it be easily damaged, the manufacture of paper produces more effluents and uses large quantity of precious water. Paper is made from wood pulp resulting in higher deforestation thus hurting the environment.

Plastics and Pollution

One of the biggest reasons for plastic pollution is that we are guilty of letting this material freely enter into the environment through littering and inefficient management of waste. As stated above, there is hardly any product that does not use plastic. While plastic has been a boon in many ways, it can also be polluting in a number of ways. A significant part of end-of-life plastics lands in landfills or oceans causing enormous problems.

Plastic Pollution. Awareness and Inaction

While most of us are broadly aware of the harmful effect of improper disposal of plastics, we casually pollute the environment by: Throwing plastic bottles, bags, packets, straws, cups and dishes on the ground. b) Dumping them in an already overflowing rubbish bin. Casual disposal of plastics also has a very perilous effect on human and wildlife. Animals mistake plastic for food, leading to ingestion with all the attendant complications. Plastics also flood low-lying areas by clogging drains and making our lives miserable. The sad truth is that plastics are found in all environments - from deep ocean to the pristine landscape.

“In a nutshell, don’t abuse plastic, reuse it and dispose waste responsibily!”

How can we control and prevent the plastic pollution?

While the problem of plastic pollution is serious, it is not beyond despair. We as individuals and as a society can: Reuse plastic products as many time and as long as we can Recycle whatever and whenever possible. Avoid littering and dispose of plastics responsibly. Segregate all our waste. Instead of imagining life without plastics, each one of us in our own way can be an agent of change. Only then can plastic pollution be tackled. You can also do your bit about spreading the word by sharing this article with friends, family members and housing societies.

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