The global plastic market today is valued at a net worth of $468.3 billion as of 2020 and it is expected to grow at 6.0% CAGR between the years 2020 to 2025. As per the data derived from various sources, the production of plastic increased from 1.5 million metric tonnes in 1950 to 368 million metric tonnes in 2019. Due to such rapid expansion of the plastic industry, the perils of ineffective disposal of plastic items are ever-increasing. The perils are, however, not irreversible and can be kept under check by adopting certain measures of waste disposal.
But before we learn more about the dangers of ineffective plastic disposal, let’s learn more about the environmental threats of such inefficiency.
What are the Perils of Plastic Items?
Every type of plastic comes with certain health concerns including chronic skin conditions, hormonal disruption and adverse effects on the central nervous system, and more. Since plastic is indispensably used in almost everything we see around us, the adverse effects of plastic on our health and ecosystem is inevitable.
Challenges to Our Health
- Certain types of plastics like PVC and Polystyrene come with serious health hazards and therefore, their use must be minimized.
- Most of the plastic items used for packaging are difficult to recycle. Moreover, recycled plastic packaging includes toxic chemicals which are a greater threat to our health.
- Diseases like cancer, chronic inflammation, diabetes, and various immune system diseases are some of the many health impacts caused by plastic.
Challenges to the Environment
- Plastic lodges inside the digestive tracks of marine animals and birds, there by causing malnutrition, slow poisoning, and intestinal blockage.
- Only a fraction of the plastic produced is biodegradable. Additionally, all plastics are not recyclable. Therefore, they pose a greater threat to the environment.
- Plastic is often burned to make more space in the landfill. However, plastic burning releases hazardous gases in the air and contributes to air and land pollution.
Although recycling of plastic is important to ensure that the effects on health and the environment are minimized, we see that only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling. And since a major portion of plastic is left out in the environment, waste management without enforcement is difficult.
Effective Plastic Waste Management
Informal sectors and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) play a key role in the disposal and recycling of plastic waste. To increase the recycling rate of plastics, the ULBs need to work collaboratively with the informal sector. It is also important to educate solid waste management units in the informal sector to enhance their plastic waste management capacity via workshops. Not only do such initiatives efficiently resolve the waste management problem, but it also improves the economic and social fabric. Linking the solid waste management workers in the informal sector with government schemes for life and health insurance could be another effective way of driving these workers to work.
Segregation of the waste at source is an important consideration that makes plastic waste management a comparatively easy affair. The waste must be sorted into three categories primarily: dry, wet and hazardous. Sorting wastes into these categories makes it easier for solid waste management workers to recover and recycle dry waste.
The government is also liable to come up with a comprehensive strategy that prevents the generation of excessive plastic wastes. Coming up with such initiatives not only resolve the problem of waste management but also generates employment for various sections of people.
The Government of India has laid down a certain set of rules and guidelines about solid waste management in the year 2016. Segregation at source, collection and disposal of sanitary waste, the user fee for collection, collect back scheme for packaging waste, water processing and treatment and promotion of waste to energy are some of the highlights of Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016. The Government has pushed students, NGOs and people from certain other communities to have stakes in the initiative so that the issues are managed better. Effective management of solid waste is incomprehensible without financial as well as technical support.
The government is trying to come up with massive National Action Plans that include everything from promoting domestic recycling to providing sustainable alternatives to hazardous types of plastic. Nevertheless, it is as important that we comply with the legal rules and guidelines to bring about a positive change.