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Plastics are broadly used, and around 400 billion plastic bags are used yearly in America alone, and just 1% of these plastics are appropriately recycled (Harris, 1959). This shows a major crisis since standard plastic bags can wind up taking many years to decompose in landfills.
In most countries in the world, plastic bags have greatly substituted the use of recycled containers and bags in most shops. The ecological externality of solid waste related to use of plastic item demonstrates the typical calamity of the commons. While some users take advantage of expediency from the use of plastic items, the entire community has to tolerate the shared cost of their disposal.
However, there is insufficient detection of the possible costs of plastic waste in most regions of the world, with the setback particularly severe in developing countries. This paper discusses the effects and hazards of excessive use of plastic products and strategies to solve the issues related to plastic usage.
There are certain hazards merged with the excessive use of plastic materials. Polyethylene, found in plastic items (non-reusable glasses, bottles, toys, chewing gum, and shopping bags) is reported by studies to cause cancer (carcinogenic).
Bisphenol A is a compound used to manufacture plastic materials, but most medical analysts believe that it causes cancer, support overweight, blood sugar, and interfere with immune systems that can cause immature puberty. Polystyrene, the type of plastic employed to produce Styrofoam items like non-reusable utensils, is considered that it goes into the human body with food and builds up in fat tissues.
It may also bring about irritation in the throat, nose, and eyes. Tetrafluoro-ethelyne, a chemical compound employed to produce non-stick cooking ware, can cause nose and eye problems, as well as respiratory issues. Acrylic, the plastic compound used to manufacture diapers, adhesives, sanitary napkins, clothes, and other plastic items, can bring about diarrhea, headaches, respiratory problems, queasiness, and vomiting (Gogte, 2009).
Cancer, genetic, and birth complications or problems are often caused by Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a type of plastic product used to manufacture packaging articles, utility products, cosmetics, and food containers or bottles. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can also bring about eye problems, respiratory issues, digestion, skin, kidney, and liver complications if used in excess.
Phthalate, a chemical compound used to manufacture inks, toys, footwear, emulsions, and other plastic items, is linked to hormonal problems, cancer, sperm count abnormalities, improper immunity, infertility, and growth problems.
Petroleum is used to manufacture plastics and contains several concerns, such as environmental hazards, exploitation of crude oil, chemical extraction into several kinds of plastics, security matters from unstable countries that produce oil, and the entire production of petroleum.
The manufacture of plastics engages several chemicals, which include chemicals that have not been adequately approved for toxicological effects on animals or humans. The final plastic product is mostly a chemical unit that, to some high degree, has inadequate ecotoxicological and toxicological level, such as PVC that has been forbidden in Europe but is found in other parts of the world since it is used to manufacture children’s toys.
Latest debates concerning plastic bottles have underlined the possible hazards, where most toxicologists proposed not to re-use plastic water bottles and not to be used to keep food in Tupperware. Making the issue worse is that science is only currently improving to a level where it may identify plastic elements in human blood, trace amounts, and connect them to human disorders and illnesses.
The plastic companies frequently turn plastic and other plastic-related chemicals into a range of plastic items that are risky and contentious to human and animal life. These plastic articles are PVCs, polystyrene, Polyethylene, and Teflon, as well as silicones used to manufacture hair and body care (Gogte, 2009).
Plastic manufacturing companies are frequently chemical companies or related to chemical companies that have a derived track record since they do not comply with regulatory compliance and readiness to carry out a toxicological examination on the plastic products they offer.
Mostly, plastics leech chemical elements that include risky chemicals through regular changes of temperature, and this makes toxicologists oppose keeping cold foods in plastics or using plastics to heat or warm foods, particularly microwave use.
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Plastics are durable items and are difficult to get rid of after they are used and generate terrific waste. While some basic plastics can be reused or recycled (for example juice and milk plastic bottles), the greater part cannot. They assume most space in landfills and cause air pollution when burned since they produce toxic smokes.
Although the usual externality crisis would often remain in the consumption of plastic bags, the efficiency of several policy tools that privatize the expenses and internalize the externality to certain level stays unproven. Studies have sufficiently determined the public costs of plastic items consumption, which can be ecologically unfriendly, obstruct landfills, and take around 1000 years to degrade (Mangizvo, 2012).
Plastic waste can also result in blocked drainage leading to hygiene and sewage harms, and to clogged soil that obstructs the development of plants. Additionally, animals have been reported always to ingest plastic materials while haphazard dumping by burning can contaminate the natural air and discharge toxic substances.
Plastic Products and Their Troubles
Most traders and consumers frequently prefer plastic containers and bags to pack foods and other products since they are less expensive, portable, sanitized, and can be dumped easily. Most used plastic bags are eventually dumped in landfills, and dumping sites and some plastic bags are recycled. After they are littered, plastic bags can spread into several places, such as streets, waterways, residential areas, and animal parks.
Although plastic bags contribute just a small portion of entire litter, the effects of these products are often considerable. Plastic bags bring about visible pollution crisis and can have a severe impact on marine and terrestrial life (Ramaswamy & Sharma, 2011).
Plastic products are mainly visible elements of the garbage stream, and plastic products that are found in rivers and lakes may be consumed by aquatic animals or marine mammals since they confuse them for jellyfish, which causes catastrophic effects.
It has been found that most plastic products take a long time to decompose, around 1000 years, and billion plastic products are thrown away annually in developing countries. Ethylene is a gas product that is produced as a by-product of petroleum and coal, but they are useful in the manufacturing process of plastic materials, such as shopping bags and water bottles.
Manufacturers often change ethylene into the polymer, or polyethylene (chemical chain of ethylene molecules), and they can be transformed into pellets that contribute an important role in the manufacture of plastic bags, bottles, and other plastic related products. Reuse and recycle plastic products can reduce the effects and problems found in our natural environment.
Feedstock or Chemical Recycling
Feedstock recycling illustrates a variety of plastic improvement approaches and plans to produce and supply plastic materials since it helps break down polymers into element monomers that in sequence can be employed once more in chemical production, refineries, and petrochemical production during the manufacturing of plastic materials.
Several feedstock recycling advancements are being studied that contain thermal cracking, gasification, hydrogenation, and pyrolysis. Feedstock recycling has a higher elasticity over composition and is more forbearing to impurities than mechanical recycling, even though it is capital demanding and wants a huge amount of used plastic products for recycling to be financially practicable (Muthu & Ding, 2012).
Ways to Reduce Environmental Effects of Plastic
The first strategy is to reduce the use of plastic products in day to day activities. Retailers and consumers can look for other alternatives that use little packaging and choose packaging products that are recycled into different packaging, for example, paper and glass.
If the government forbids the use of plastic products in packaging, the companies will reduce the production of those functions, which eventually reduce the related problems like environmental pollution, severe health impact, and energy usage (Adane & Muleta, 2011).
Reuse of plastic containers is an important approach as well. Certainly, if plastic producers aim to reuse plastic products, the demands for non-reusable plastics will reduce. It can also decrease the use of energy and materials that eventually reduce ecological effects.
Producers of plastic bags and bottles should keep in mind the outcome of the plastic products away from the point of sale and think about the services the products offer. Plastic producers should withdraw resins by restricting plastic industries that are directly engaged in product disposal and sealing the product loop, which can encourage these manufacturers to take into account the plastic’s lifecycle.
They should make reprocessing simpler by restricting the number of product shapes and types by employing just a certain type of resin in every product. They should also produce collapsible products, reducing related metals (for example aluminum seals), eradicating pigments, and introducing water-dispersible paste for packaging.
Plastic and resin producers can help introduce the reprocessing structure by collecting used plastic materials and containers from consumers to recycle or reuse them. The governments should introduce some guidelines to control the percentage of plastic materials used in packaging so that it can reduce the number of plastic materials consumed.
They should also standardize labeling and should educate the people or consumers because standardization of labels for “made of plastic type X, recyclable, and recycled” (Adane & Muleta, 2011) should be introduced to make identification simple.
Many countries have introduced several innovations to recycle and reuse waste plastic products to reduce excessive use and production. This will reduce the severe consequences of plastic products to our environment and health as well. Additives should be used to improve plastic’s possibility to decompose, and they can be used together with degradation inducers, for example, compost, thermal degradation, and ultraviolet radiation.
This integration can highly boost the rate of decomposition of plastic products, but the expenses should be considered by the manufacturers. Through studies, there are possibilities for changes in the existing plastic bags and alternative products that function similar to plastic products.
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