Ways to control the plastic waste! - Seeker's Thoughts

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Ways to control the plastic waste!

Humans produce about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. That's nearly equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. Since the 1950s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material.

Around 180 governments on 10th May 2019 agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the export of plastic waste, some eight million tonnes of which ends up in the oceans each year. 

The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.

Plastic pollution is equal to the weight of humans

 More than 99% of plastic is produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas, and coal- all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources.

If current trends continue, by 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world's total oil consumption.

Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled about 12% has been increased, while the rest - 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment

Which is the most common form of the Plastic?

Cigarette butts- whose filters contain tiny plastic fibers- were the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment in a recent global survey. 

Drinking bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws, and stirrers were the next most common item.

Human uses these products every day, without even thinking about where they might end up.

Did u know?

Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once and the thrown away.

Rising in plastic use since the 1950s

Since the 1950s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material.

From the 1950s to the 70s, only a small amount of plastic was produced, so plastic waste was relatively manageable. But by 1990s, a plastic waste generation had more than tripled in two decades, following a similar rise in plastic production. And then in the early 2000s, plastic waste rose in a single decade it had in the previous 40 years.

Plastic pollution is killing oceans organisms

There are micro-organisms in the sea and they produce 10% of the world's oxygen. They are under threats because of the increasing amount of plastic in the ocean. 

Prochlorococcus - A photosynthetic organism - they are capable of photosynthesis; they are widely available o Earth and help by carbon cycling. It is also a source of food for marine species. However, the plastic has threatened the organism.

In recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, Biology scientists study the effects of plastic on these micro-organisms. 
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They found two different types of plastic - Grey plastic grocery bags and PVC matting which was left in seawater for five days. This process leached chemicals from the Plastic, which was then used testing.

They found that plastic affects the organism's growth, the way they conduct photosynthesis and their genes. The study says that if they are affected, then the larger community of plankton will also be affected on a larger scale.

Plastic has been estimated to cause $13 billion in economic damages, however, the effect on these micro-organisms will incomparable.

Use of plastic in India

India consumes an estimated 1.6 million of plastic annually, 43% is plastic manufactured for single-use packaging material that will mostly find its way into garbage bins.
In all, 80% of total plastic produced in India is discarded according to the report in Down to Earth that cites data provided by PlastIndia Foundation. 

Plastic waste ends up choking landfills, drains, and rivers which flows into the sea where it is ingested by marine animals. It leaches into soil and water contaminating the natural environment with poisonous dioxins.

An estimate shows over 60% of about 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated daily.  This huge amount of trash is being released into the environment especially through Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghan river system.

This river system is on the UN map of 10 rivers worldwide that collectively carry the bulk of the plastic waste into the ocean.

India consumes and produced Much more plastic than It reports

Only 14 of India's 35 regional pollution boards filed information on plastic waste generation in 2017-18, according to the latest report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Thus, the CPCB estimate of plastic waste generated in India in 2017-18 - 660,787.85 tonnes, enough to fill 66,079 trucks at 10 tonnes a truck does not reflect the situation in more than 60% of India's states and Union Territories.

In 2016-17 too, CPCB received these from only 25 regional pollution boards. The total plastic waste generation fugues for that year was estimated at 1.6 million tonnes or 160,000 truckfuls.

The CPCB has approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to enforce the implementation of the plastic waste management ruled by non-compliant states.
On March 12, 2019, the NGT ordered all of them to ensure that reports are furnished to CPCB by April 30, 2019.

Failure is to be punished with a penalty of Rs 1 crore per month, to be paid to the CPCB, the NGT stated.

These single-use plastic products are everywhere. For many of us, they’ve become integral to our daily lives. 

Plastic wastes have been threatening to the climate, oceans, plants, birds, and drinking water as it is included in daily use products.

The most devastating elements of this pollution are that the plastic takes thousands of year decay. As a result, fish and wildlife are becoming intoxicated. Consequently, the toxins from the plastics have entered the food chain threatening human health. Humans are the primary source of producing and using plastics.

US's Berkeley Lab creates PDK, a fully Recyclable Plastic

In the USA a team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a fully recyclable plastic which can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level. 

The Discovery was reported in journal named - Nature Chemistry
Scientist have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new material of any form, shape or colour without any loss of performance or quality.

The name of newly created recycled plastic is POLY (Diketoenamine), or PDK.

The function of Poly Diketoenamine or PDK

Scientists have discovered a new way to assemble plastic which unlike earlier takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective. It means that this recyclable plastic can be disassembled into its constituent parts at molecular level.

Unlike conventional plastic, the monomers which make PDK plastic could be easily recovered and freed from any compounded additives just by dunking the plastic material in a highly acidic solution.

The acid then breaks down PDK polymers into monomers and also allows monomers to be separated from entwined chemical additives that give plastic its actual look and feel.

Way forward

There are certain ways to reduce plastic, and there has to be constant efforts. There is no denying that plastic collection has reduced in Bengaluru according to some reports, but there is much more to be done. 

Awareness campaigns are constant need

There has to be endless awareness campaign until people rise from slumber to bring owns shopping bags the usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags are extremely limited. On individual level, with the help of certain influencers, people should stop buying plastic water bottles. 

Same goes with straw use, there needs to be an attitude shift to a say no to straws plastic straws. 

Technological shift

There is a need to switch from, disposable diapers to the cloth. Or diaper companies should use material which can be degraded easily in an environment without polluting it.
The majority of plastic waste is generated in the kitchen; there can be glass containers/ metal containers at place of the plastic one.

Addressing the issue of Waste Plastic

Waste plastic from packaging of everything from food, cosmetics, and groceries to goods delivered by online platforms remains unaddressed.
Municipal Authorities should change working
It will take a paradigm shift in the manner in which waste is collected and handled by municipal authorities to change this.

Proper implementation of the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016

The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 are clear that producers, importers and brand owners must adopt a collect-back system for the plastic they introduce into the environment.

Although the rules were notified in the same year, amended later and given high visibility by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, not much has been done to take the process forward. 

Local Bodies should be more involved

At the very least, local bodies should consult manufacturers or importers to assess the problem.

Extended Producer Responsibility

Delaying such a measure has created the anomalous situation of small producers of plastics facing the ban, while more organized entities covered by the Extended Producer Responsibility clause continue with business as usual.

There are more thousands of ways to control plastic pollution. Comprehensive plans are needed to spread awareness among people to reduce plastic pollution.

What are the international efforts to regulate the plastic pollution?
Basel Convention

The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework.

During the Basel Conference of the Parties from 29 April to 10 May 2019, Governments amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment. 

At the same time, a new Partnership on Plastic Waste was established to mobilise business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise to assist in implementing the new measures, to provide a set of practical supports – including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance.

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