Although plastic has many valuable uses, we have become dependent on single-use plastic products, which have serious environmental, social, economic and health consequences. Globally, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute and up to 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year. Overall, half of the plastic produced is single-use. In other words, it is used once and thrown away.
Plastics, including microplastics, are ubiquitous in our natural environment today. They will become part of the Earth's fossil record and mark the current geological age, the Anthropocene. They named a new marine microbial habitat called the "Plastisphere".
What Is Plastic?
A plastic, polymeric material that can be moulded or formed, usually by the application of heat and pressure. This property of plasticity is often combined with other special properties such as low density, low conductivity, transparency and toughness to allow the plastic to be processed into a wide variety of products. These include robust, lightweight beverage bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), flexible garden hoses made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), insulated food containers made from Styrofoam, and shatterproof windows made from polymethyl methacrylate.
This adaptability, along with various beneficial properties such as light weight, durability, flexibility, and inexpensive manufacturing processes, contribute to its widespread acceptance in today's society. Most modern plastics are made from fossil fuel-based petrochemicals such as natural gas and oil. However, modern plastic manufacturing processes use alternatives made from renewable materials such as corn and cotton derivatives. Plastics are generally classified based on the chemical structure of the polymer base and side chains. Major categories in these classifications include acrylics, polyesters, silicones, polyurethanes, and halogenated plastics. Plastics are also classified by the chemical processes used in their synthesis, such as Crosslinking, Condensation and Polyaddition.
How Plastic Causes Pollution
Improper disposal of plastics, overuse of plastics and low rates of recycling processes are the main causes of plastic pollution. But many other reasons make plastic pollution a serious threat to the environment.
Here are causes of Plastic Pollution:
Population growth and Urbanization- Population growth and urbanization are directly related to plastic pollution. As the population grows, the demand for cheaper materials increases year by year. Manufacturers began producing more plastic products to meet consumer demand. Rapid urbanization has increased the use of plastic products in our daily lives. Population growth and urbanization amplify the sources of plastic pollution that pollute wildlife, marine life and the environment as a whole.
Excessive use of Plastic material- In the last few decades, plastic has replaced the world's most commonly used materials. The reason for the popularity of plastic is that it is cheap and durable, which makes this product affordable for everyone.Due to the excessive use of plastic products, plastic pollution is increasing day by day. Plastic takes years to decompose. Therefore, it begins to accumulate below the surface. This surface prevents rainwater from seeping into the ground, causing generations of water shortages.
Low rate of decomposition- As you know, this decomposition is essential to maintain the balance of the environment, but plastic takes 100 years to decompose. This is a sad truth for the environment. That's why; the Earth is now covered with vast amounts of plastic on every part of its surface. The slow rate of decomposition is due to the strong chemical bonds in the plastic. Let's look at some examples of how long it takes to decompose various plastic products. According to research and reports, just a few examples -
A simple plastic bag used to transport goods takes about 50 years to decompose. It takes about 400 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.
Fishing nets have strong plastic chemical bonds and typically take 500 years or more to decompose.
Improper disposal of plastic waste- You've heard that plastic lasts longer. Therefore, it is not easy to disintegrate this material. Plastic waste continues to release harmful toxins into the environment, causing plastic pollution throughout the region. Attempting to burn plastic to break it down causes even more serious damage to land, air and water. Recycling is the new way to dispose of plastic, but unfortunately this process also releases plastic pollutants into the environment in many ways, leading to plastic pollution.
The ocean is downstream from nearly every terrestrial location and is therefore the place that receives much of the land-based plastic waste. Every year, millions of tons of garbage end up in the world's oceans, much of it improperly disposed of as plastic waste. The first oceanographic study examining the amount of surface plastic waste in the world's oceans was published in 2014. it estimated that there are at least 5.25 trillion individual plastic particles weighing about 244,000 metric tons (269,000 short tons) floating at or near the surface.
In 2021 study found that 44% of plastic waste in rivers, oceans and beaches consisted of bags, bottles and take-out meal-related items. Plastic pollution in the ocean was first noticed by scientists studying plankton in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The oceans and beaches are still the focus of attention for those who study plastic pollution and work to reduce it. Airborne plastic debris has been shown to accumulate in five subtropical gyres that cover 40% of the world's oceans. These mid-latitude gyres include the North and South Pacific subtropical gyres, to the east of which "garbage patches" (zones of highly concentrated plastic debris circulating near the surface of the ocean) are of interest to scientists and the media. It's getting attention. Other circulations are the North and South Atlantic Subtropical Circulation and the Indian Ocean Subtropical Circulation.
In the ocean, plastic pollution can kill marine mammals directly by getting entangled in objects such as fishing gear, but it can also kill them by mistaking them for food. All species, including large whales, most seabirds, and all sea turtles, have been found to readily ingest plastic and debris such as lighters, plastic bags, and bottle caps. Sunlight and sea water make the plastic brittle, and eventually larger objects break down into microplastics, which are then made available to zooplankton and other small marine organisms. These tiny pieces of plastic less than 5 mm (0.2 inches) long make up a significant portion of the plastic debris in the ocean.
Conclusion And Solving The Problem
Given the global plastic pollution, the cost of removing plastic from the environment would be exorbitant. Therefore, most solutions to the problem of plastic pollution focus on preventing improper disposal, or even restricting the use of certain plastic products in the first place. Enforcing fines for littering. It's proving difficult to do so, but it's possible to impose various fees, completely ban foam food containers and plastic shopping bags, and collect deposits by bringing beverage bottles to recycling centers. has become common.