Plastics – The most dreaded Pollutant:
Plastic is material consisting of any wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic compounds that are malleable and so can be molded into solid objects. Plastic – the most dreaded pollutant
Plasticity is the general property of all materials which can deform irreversibly without breaking but, in the class of moldable polymers, this occurs to such a degree that their actual name derives from this specific ability.
Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass and often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, most commonly derived from petrochemicals, however, an array of variants are made from renewable materials such as polylactic acid from corn or cellulosic from cotton litters. Due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to water, plastics are used in a multitude of products of different scales, including paper clips and spacecraft. They have prevailed over traditional materials, such as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, metal, glass, and ceramic, in some products previously left to natural materials. Plastic – the most dreaded pollutant.
In developed economies, about a third of plastics are used in packaging and roughly the same in buildings in applications such as piping, plumbing or vinyl siding. Other uses include automobiles ( up to 20% plastics), furniture and toys. In the developing world, the application of plastics may differ-42% of India’s consumption and in packaging.
Plastics have many uses in the medical field as well, with the introduction of polymer implants and other medical devices derived at least partially from plastics. The field of plastic surgery is not named for use of plastic materials, but rather the meaning of the word plasticity, with regards to the reshaping of flesh.
The success and dominance of plastics starting in the early 20th Century led to the environmental concerns regarding its slow decomposition rate after being discarded as trash due to its composition of large molecules. Toward the end of the century, one approach to this problem was met with wide efforts towards recycling. Plastic – the most dreaded pollutant
Pure plastics have low toxicity due to their insolubility in water and because they are biochemically inert, due to a large molecular weight. Plastics products contain a variety of additives, some of which can be toxic. For Example, plasticizers like adipates and phthalates are often added to brittle plastics like Polyvinyl chloride to make them pliable enough for use in food packaging, toys, and many other items. Traces of these compounds can leach out of the product. Owing to concerns over the effects of such leachates, the European Union has restricted the use of DEHP ( di-2ethylhexyl phthalate) and other phthalates in some applications, and the United States has limited the use of DEHP, DPB, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DNOP in children’s toys and childcare articles with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Some compounds leaching from polystyrene food containers have been proposed to interfere with hormone functions and are suspected human carcinogens. Other chemicals of potential concern include alkylphenols.
Whereas the finished plastics may be non- toxic, the monomers used in the manufacture of the parent polymers may be toxic. In some cases, small amounts of those chemicals can remain trapped in the product unless suitable processing is employed. For example, the World Health Organization’s International Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognized vinyl chloride, the precursor to PVC, as a human carcinogen.
Most plastics are durable and degrade very slowly, as their chemical structure renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation. There are differing estimates of how much plastic waste has been produced in the last century. By one estimate, one billion tons of plastic waste have been discarded since the 1950s. Others estimate a cumulative human production of 8.3 billion tons of plastic of which 6.3 billion tons is waste, with a recycling rate of only9%. Much of this material may persist for centuries or longer, given the demonstrated persistence of structurally similar natural materials such as amber.
The Ocean Conservancy reported that China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam dump more plastic in the sea than all other countries combined. The rivers the Yangtze, Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, Nile, Ganges, Pearl River, Amur, Niger, and the Mekong “ transport 88-95% of the global [plastics] load into the sea.
The presence of plastics particularly microplastics, within the food chain is increasing. In the 1960s microplastics were observed in the guts of seabirds, and since then have been found in increasing concentrations. The long- term effects of plastics in the food chain are poorly understood. In 2009, it was estimated that 10% of modern waste was plastic, although estimates vary according to ton region. Meanwhile, 50-80% of the debris in marine areas is plastic.
Prior to the Montreal Protocol, CFC’s were commonly used in the manufacture of polystyrene, and as such, the production of polystyrene completed to the depletion of the ozone layer.
The effect of plastic on global warming is mixed. Plastics are generally made from petroleum. If the plastic is incinerated, it increases carbon emissions; if it is placed in a landfill, it becomes a carbon sink although biodegradable plastics have caused methane emissions. Due to the lightness of plastic versus glass r metal, plastics may reduce energy consumption. For example, packaging beverages in PET plastic rather than glass or metal is estimated to save 52% in transportation energy.
India has held off imposing a blanket ban on single-use plastics to combat pollutions. Currently, in India, there is only one law that is in place- no manufacturer or vendor can use a plastic bag which is below 50 microns as thinner bags pose a major threat to the environment due to its known-disability. The usage of plastic bags is still high as the ban is not implemented on all plastic bags. Plastic – the most dreaded pollutant
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