Plastic has been termed as highly inflammable and comprises substances that are rich in hydrocarbons, and it is also non-renewable. Bags made out of plastic pose a grave danger to the environment. Made from detrimental chemicals, plastic bags are a direct threat to the ecological habitat and our health, as they lead to clogging of drains, besmirching of groundwater, pollution of rivers, ultimately resulting in the extinction of wildlife as well as aquatic organisms.
According to studies, at present, the production of plastic in the world is about 100 million tons per annum, and this is increasing at a rate of 4 percent. In India, the production and use of plastic are growing rapidly, which one needs to control immediately. It is also seen that on an average, every Indian generates around half a kilo of plastic waste every year. Much of this is scattered on and around garbage piles, which, in turn, spreads environmental pollution.
Plastic bags are considered a major contributing factor to the pollution which is detrimental to our environs; therefore, they should be banned to curb air, water and land pollution. Let’s understand the basics.
Used globally as packing material, plastic bags are made from large molecules called ethylene. These are insoluble in soil and are also unstirred by nature. Plastic bags comprise of three basic polyethene polymers: low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). There is a marked content of Carbon and Hydrogen in this polyethylene. Being a chemical additive, it doesn’t disintegrate, and that is the only reason why plastic bags do not rot. Grocery bags are generally made out of HDPE while garbage/packing/carrier bags are made of LDPE.
Every product does have a minimum service life, but sadly, it is not so in the case of plastics. The fact is that our planet cannot assimilate plastic. The polymers present in plastic take around 500 to 1000 years to completely degenerate. And as a result, we find bits and pieces of used plastic on every part of this planet; this has now reached an alarming level. Currently, India generates around 56 lakh tons of plastic waste annually, and Delhi alone accounts for 9,600 metric tons per day. The plastic menace is also one of the major factors making waste management a herculean task for the country.
It is believed that every square mile of the ocean holds about 46,000 pieces of plastic. India’s contribution to the plastic waste that is dumped into the ocean every year is roughly 60%. Animals and aquatic organisms are worst affected by waste plastic bags. Plastic bags are thrown away thoughtlessly after use. And as I said earlier, these plastic bags get collected in the garbage areas, where innocent animals go looking for food.
The animals end up eating parts of plastic or the entire plastic bag as a whole, along with the food. Their intestines are unable to digest the harmful ethylene, eventually, leading to illness and death. Similar is the threat to marine creatures. These plastics float in water bodies, and very often, the fishes, turtles and other marine creatures consume the plastic, mistaking it for food. Eventually, they fall ill, leading to deaths and extinction of the rarest species. We all remember the video of that plastic straw stuck in the turtle’s nose going viral.
With every use of plastic, we are increasing the amount of plastic waste. Being a non-biodegradable substance, instead of diffusing, plastic crumbles into pieces, deteriorates over time, but neither fuses with the soil nor dissolves in water. It is also not advisable to dispose of plastic by burning, as it emits a harmful gaseous substance, which results in air pollution, and subsequently leads to serious ailments.
Getting rid of plastic has turned out to be the biggest challenge today. It’s time we totally ban the use of plastic bags along with other plastic items. Many countries have implemented the same and India should also follow this route to bring down environmental pollution. This is the only way we can save our planet from the approaching atmospheric imbalance caused by pollution. Ban plastic!