Plastic is no doubt a valuable material in our economic world. Its sterile, strong, light can be easily shaped and most importantly, it’s inexpensive. Plastics are very versatile and it has undoubtedly made life simple in many ways. Plastic packaging can withstand the rough handling during shipment and its containers provide us with good storage.
People get mistaken by the word plastic. it’s not only the transparent bag in our households in which we keep carry our food or which we see as packages. They are also used in cell phones, computers, TVs and even when we are building a house. Plastic is there in roofs, walls, paints, protective coatings, glue, lubricants, etc. It does look like the benefits of plastic use is limitless- but really, is it?
For the benefits mentioned above the manufacturing of plastic has increased dramatically. It wasn’t before 1960 in the postwar years when the Americans observed plastic debris in the ocean. Rachel Carson in her book, ‘ Silent Spring’ published in 1962 has tried to point out the dangers of chemical pesticides and other rising pollution issues.
It was in the 1980s when the plastic industries for the first time started encouraging municipalities to try to minimize the waste production by collecting and then processing the recycled materials. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that we failed in doing so and now the plastic waste is, unfortunately, the most concerning environmental issues. There are less than 10% manufactured plastic which gets recycled. Every minute approximately one garbage truck dumps its plastic into the water bodies which eventually reaches the oceans.
How Can we Reduce The Plastic Waste?
- Conscious Elimination– This is when companies and big brands decide not to use plastic for packaging where there is not any need. Some supermarkets have taken the initiative in making such amends like Tesco and ASDA in the UK, Walmart in North America.
2. Necessary Innovations– This is when a company decide to replace the plastic with something else- for example, Carlsberg has changed its packaging by replacing the plastic ring holdings with dots of glue which stick the six-pack of beer cans together. Apeel and Mori in the US have also replaced plastic by using edible coatings to keep the food fresh. The material used now there is organic materials and not plastic.
3. Reusing– Many big companies have stepped forward to reuse its packaging. In June 2018 PepsiCo India had announced its packaging for Lays and Kurkure shall be made from 100% plant based material. Coca-Cola also too a step forward and they said
” We are fundamentally reshaping our approach to packaging… We have set a global goal to help collet and recycle a bottle or can for everyone we sell by 2030“
4. Recycling– This is a process in which the product which is to be thrown away is turned into a new product. This process holds importance as it further does not contribute to the emission of the greenhouse gas and also helps in stopping the manufacture of plastic. Companies like Coca-Cola have taken the initiative by selling sprite in transparent clear bottles rather than green bottles as they are easier to recycle.
5. Composting– Using biodegradable or organic plastics instead of long-lasting non-organic plastics help to reduce and control environmental waste. There are companies like the PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea which are among the big-name companies promoting composting.
6. Edible Cutlery– These are eco-friendly utensils and edible too as the title suggests. Narayan Peesapaty who is the founder and the managing director of Bakey’s Food Private Limited came up with this ingenious idea of edible cutlery to replace plastic. He says,
“Whenever I travelled I used to feel terribly guilty about using plastic cutlery“
These edible cutlers are made by mixing jowar, rice and wheat. He claims that the spoons only get soggy when kept in water or anything liquid for 10-15 minutes and therefore can be eaten after the meal. he also says that even if the spoon gets discarded they get decomposed within 6 days.
7. Edible Packaging– Companies and pharmaceutical industries are all striving to address one of the biggest concerns of everyone- plastic pollution. What looks like a theme now in US agriculture, the scientists have come up with a bright idea of edible packaging. this packaging for food material is made of milk protein and claims to be better in preserving food than plastic.
8. Plastic Bricks and Roads– An average Indian consumes 11 kg plastic per year whereas an average American consumes 108 kg. We can work together and make earth breathe again by doing our duties diligently. Eliminating plastic from our lives can be difficult and therefore people are coming up with innovative ideas to reduce the manufacturing of plastics. Eco-bricks can be made by using plastic bottles which are to be packed completely with used plastic to increase its density. Thereafter, these plastic bottles can be used as bricks in building something, replacing cement bricks and red bricks.
Plastic roads are made up of plastics. Indian Govt ordered in November 2015 saying states have to make use of plastics in road building to tackle the big plastic waste disposal problem in India. Prof. Rajagolan Vasudevan, a chemistry professor at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai had a big role in coming up with a technology which did so. He is also called,’ Plastic Man’ of India.