Future scenarios of global plastic waste generation and disposal

The foundation of today’s fast-paced world is laid on the bricks of plastics. Undoubtedly, plastic has innumerable uses, but humans have become dependent on single-use or disposable plastic. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues, as the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them.

Almost a million plastic bottles are purchased in a minute around the world. And studies show that around 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide in 1 year. Looking at the total plastic production, we can conclude that half of the plastic produced is only for time use.

Analysing the impact of plastic pollution, the negatives are far more than the positives. So the question is, how did we get here?

Plastic was produced in significantly less quantity during 1950-70, and hence it was easy to manage the plastic waste at that time. By the 1990’s it tripled, and in the early 2000, plastic waste increased in a single decade than it had in the last 40 years.

Today, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year, equal to the weight of the entire human population on this planet.

Slowing down our plastic production is the need of the hour. But we also need to ameliorate how we manage our plastic waste generation.

79% of the plastic waste ends up in landfills. Only 9% of the plastic waste is recycled. A recent survey showed that the most common plastic found in the environment is a tiny plastic in the filter of cigarette butts. The next common items are bottle caps, drinking bottles, straws and food wrappers. Almost all of us use these plastic products every day.

Plastic is a significant contribution to ocean pollution as the rivers carry all the plastic waste along with them. A total 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. Rivers work like a conveyor belt carrying more and more garbage(plastic) as they move downstream. Once the trash reaches the ocean, it travels around the world.

90% of the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean is carried by 12 rivers are Niger, Nile, Indus, Meghna, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Hia He, Amur, Mekong, Huang He, Chang Jiang, and Zhujiang.

We all know that any kind of plastic waste on mother earth- whether water bodies or on land can persist for more than 100 years. Plastic waste never disappears; it only breaks down into smaller particles. The properties that make plastic so worthwhile for us are the same properties that make it infeasible to break down.

Thousands and millions of animals are killed because of the plastics in our rivers and oceans. Many marine animals swallow plastic bags and other tiny plastic items, destining them to our dinner plates.

In a very few decades, plastic pollution has created an unimaginable impact on our ecosystem. But still, some hope is left. Human beings created this problem, and human beings also have the power to reverse this problem or at least slow down the noxious impacts of plastic pollution.

If the current scenario continues, our oceans will have more plastic than marine animals in the near future.

Now the time has come for human beings to stop turning a deaf ear to this problem and take action. Reducing our dependence on plastic products is the need of the hour. By recycling and reusing products, we can definitely reduce the devastating impacts of plastic pollution.

Why Plastic Recycling?

  • Recycling plastic reduces the release of carbon dioxide and harmful gases into the environment.
  • Plastic recycling conserves the space used as landfills.
  • It makes it possible to use those landfills for other purposes.
  • Recycling saves petroleum that producers may use to make new plastics.
  • Plastic recycling lessens the energy that manufacturers consume in creating new products.
  • Plastic recycling prevents global warming.
  • Plastic recycling reduces the emergence of all forms of pollution.
  • Plastic recycling provides income for volunteers who collect plastic waste.
  • Plastic recycling helps reduce activities like deforestation that happen when making new plastic.

Well, while relaxing on the beach, no one wants to think how the sea has become a trash soup. So it’s high time that we should create awareness about plastic pollution and try our best to reduce single-use of plastic.

8 Ways To Reduce Plastic Waste?

Plastics have become an inextricable component of our everyday life. While plastics are undeniably convenient, efficient, and make all of our lives a little simpler, they have resulted in significant worldwide plastic pollution for which the world has no definite remedy. Because of its pervasiveness, giving it up may be tough; it necessitates not just a change in behaviour, but also a shift in mentality. Plastic is problematic because it is non-biodegradable and therefore lasts much longer (for example, up to 1000 years) than other types of trash.

Fortunately, organisations and governments all across the world are proposing policies to limit their environmental impact. However, there are things that every one of us can do to help stop plastic from spreading.

Here are methods to cut down on your plastic consumption.

  1. Avoid single-use plastics: Our lives are made simpler by plastic straws, plates, and cutlery, yet they have a significant environmental effect. If feasible, use metal, bamboo or use biodegradable plastics.
  2. Use cloth bags instead of plastic bags when you go shopping.
  3. Purchase in large quantities: Disposable containers abound (polystyrene trays, PET bottles, tetra packs, plastic containers, and so on), but more and more retailers are also providing bulk purchases of grains and rice.
  4. Reconsider your food storage options: Rather than using plastic baggies, wrap, or storage containers, consider utilising a bento box or tiffin.
  5. Microplastic-containing cosmetics should be avoided.
  6. Avoid using disposable rubbish bags by composting food waste.
  7. If you do use plastics, make sure to recycle them properly and in compliance with your local recycling regulations.
  8. Use a water bottle that can be refilled.

Plastic Waste Facts

  1. In 2020 we generated over 500 million tons of plastic waste, which is 900% higher than in 1980.
  2. Single-use plastics have a 12- to 15-minute functional life and can take up to 500 years to degrade.
  3. Every year, 500 billion plastic bottles are manufactured throughout the world.
  4. Ocean plastics will most certainly outnumber fish by 2050.
  5. More than 150 million tonnes of plastic waste have been found in the ocean.

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How can plastic producers make recycling viable?

Leo Baekeland was a Belgian-American chemist who invented plastic accidentally. Still, its invention got a lot of praise due to the “n” number of advantages of plastic, such as being easy to carry, readily available, cheap, waterproof, and most importantly, its life span. But now, years later, its durability is causing problems, and its advantages are changing into disadvantages. Due to its extended lifespan, it is not degrading into inorganic or organic substances and filling up the massive landfills & polluting the ambiance by releasing poisonous gases. So, to solve this issue, authorities have introduced an EPR scheme for plastic, just like electronic waste, in 2012.  

What is EPR Plastic? 

EPR Plastic is the Extended Producer Responsibility for plastic; it comes under the 2016 program of Plastic Waste Management. It means the producer is no longer responsible for taking care of the waste plastic. In fact, according to this law, EPR Company must collect that waste plastic and dispose of it safely r recycle it for future use. In return, the plastic recycler is getting the financial benefit, and the plastic producer is earning plastic credit points and proving a good industrialist.  

How is the emergence of EPR Plastic Beneficial?

Before implementing EPR for plastic, it is tough to distinguish the waste in the name of a specific company due to poor segregation. The rack picker will collect waste in bulk, and no company would manually do the work of segregating waste. This results in losing the company’s interest in recycling and building large hips of garbage all around the place. 

The solution to this problem is plastic EPR companies. It is the dual profit scheme where the plastic recycler is responsible for collecting & processing the waste, and the plastic producer will get credit points. The responsibility of EPR can be physical, fiscal, or both. 

What are the effects of plastic EPR?  

The EPR plays a triple role; let us understand how. 

  • First is collecting waste from producer & then recycling or re-designing it to form a new product for selling in the market. 
  • The second is minimizing the waste from around us to reduce the proportion of poisonous gases & toxic chemicals from the environment and minimize the greenhouse effect. 
  • The third is meeting the consumer’s demand for recycled or environmentally hazardous free products. 
  • Fourth, knowledging citizens about the plastic recycling methods, advantages of using recycled products, and encouraging them to do so.

Plastic EPR works on regulating plastic waste, collecting ~ processing ~converting it into finished goods. But this system can only work if the basic ground rules are entirely studied before implementing the law & sufficient time is provided for the processing. Lacking any of these two factors can lead to the collapsing of the plastic EPR system.

Conclusion By far, you have read that as per the modern laws, it is the EPR’s duty for plastic waste management, and that can only be viable if two ground rules have been followed. But next to the list is PRO (producer responsibility organization).