Plastics reuse, recycling a major health hazard

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By Naseem sheikh

PLASTIC IS the general common term for a wide range of synthetic or semi synthetic organic amorphous solid materials suitable for the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular weight, and may contain other substances to improve performance and or reduce costs.
Man-made plastic is called as Synthetic Plastics. It is usually made from crude oil, but, coal and natural gas are also used. These plastics do not decompose easily and, hence, lead to death by choking of cattle and other herbivores, when carelessly thrown in green pastures.
Burning of plastic bags and items leads to the creation of noxious fumes, such as carbon monoxide. The increase in the effusion of this gas has led to an upsurge in the peoples suffering from various respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis. The noxious fumes have also had an injurious affect on the ozone layer, which prevents the harmful rays of the sun from inflowing the atmosphere. The thinning of this layer has increased incidences of skin cancer and has, therefore, been a vital cause of the problem known as global warming. The soil fertility deteriorates as the plastic bags form parts of manure remain in the soil for years.
Plastic bottles, plastic bags and food packaging are responsible for most of our plastic waste. The most common symbols of our disposable culture are beverage bottles, plastic bags, coffee-stirrers, and styro foam – the most ephemeral of ephemera. But, paradoxically, the chemicals in these items will be with us forever. Plastic is one of the few new chemical materials which pose environmental problem. Polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene are largely used in the manufacture of plastics.
A recent US report concluded that more than 100,000 marine mammals die each year in the worlds oceans by eating or becoming entangled in plastic rubbish, and the position is worsening world-wide. Plastic bags are the cause of major environmental concerns. Statistics show that we are consuming more and more plastics every year. It is estimated that an average individual uses around 130 plastic bags per year. These bags are everywhere and every day, we are handed countless plastic bags when we go to the grocery store, retail clothing store, book store, restaurants, etc. In US each year over 25 billion single use plastic water bottles are be bought, used once, only part of the contents consumed most of the time, and discarded and merely 20 per cent of those bottles will be recycled. While the rest will lay in landfills for the next few thousand years and end up in the oceans which ends up polluting our food chain and is hurting human health.
The world’s oceans contain millions of tons of plastics, most of which are discarded on land and wend their way down rivers and along coasts until eventually they are carried into the middle of the sea. Plastic is the largest source of ocean litter. Plastic bags take up to 500 years to decompose in the water and in the meantime contribute to the deaths of 10,000s birds and marine mammals each year.
A UNs top environmental official has already called for a global ban on plastic bags many times. “Single use plastic bags which choke marine life should be banned or phased out rapidly throughout the world. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.
Plastic products after use are not the producers’ problem; it’s the planet’s problem. Plastic wastes choke seas across the globe. This form of pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems we face, and it’s only getting worse as plastic production continues to grow.
Plastic fragments of all sizes have appalling effects on marine organisms, but perhaps a greater threat to humans is encountered on a microscopic level.
One of the most common chemicals in plastics is Bisphenol A more widely known as BPA. This compound is an endocrine disruptor which can mimic oestrogen and has been linked with an array of afflictions as diverse as diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, thyroid disorders, ADHD, infertility, erectile dysfunction, early-onset menstruation and obesity. Bisphenol A or as BPA and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can pass through the placental wall and might also enter infants through breast milk.
More than a 100 million tons of plastic are produced world-wide each year. In Asia the plastic use in daily exercise is more common. Plastic packaging restrictions are being enacted or proposed across the continent, including in Pakistan, India, Malaysia and the Philippines. China was also among the first Asian countries to restrict plastic bags in 2008.


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