Ever Wondered How Dangerous Your Plastic Milk-Pouch Can Be?

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The Worldwide Pollution Control Association published a recent report which says that the world uses around 5 trillion plastic bags every year. The amount of plastic that ultimately accumulates in the water bodies, including lakes and rivers, comes up to approximately 13 million tons.

Amidst of all these figures, India alone is one of the largest consumers of plastic using almost 50% of the worldwide single-use plastic production, and still, people seem to be ignorant. Rather than asking how the waste should be managed, we should ask, “When will we realise that the place where we live is not just a dustbin?

Every household in India contributes to more than 10% of the total waste that is accumulated every day. I have witnessed how several households every day deliberately dispose of their plastic wastes, like milk pouches and plastic bottles, straight into the drains.

Representational image.

When I asked them why they don’t dispose of the same in the trash van that comes every morning, they give me such shameless answers, like “I feel too lazy to dump it in the trash van, and anyway, dumping it in the trash van and in the drain is just the same.

Although the production rate of plastics in India has touched nearly 16% as compared to China (10%) and the United Kingdom (2.5%), the plastic waste management system is performing miserably. Using plastic is not the problem, and especially in a country like India, it can be useful. The problem arises when we dump plastic in random places, causing the chemicals in them to percolate through the ecosystem, turning them into a prime threat to all the living creatures.

So, the question is, what happens to the plastics that we throw away, and what causes it to be a fatal activity?

Studies say that prolonged exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation leads to photo-oxidation of plastic waste. Furthermore, most plastic waste, when left unattended, releases furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls into the environment. The Phthalates also turn out to be one of the fatal substances to be released into the ecosystem when plastics are disposed of inefficiently.

Representational image.

A study, which was conducted by Dr. Roth in the year 1998, in preterm infants with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) respiratory tubing found that these infants were exposed to a hyaline membrane disorder caused by the prolonged exposure to Di (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate.

A comprehensive list of the significant Phthalates, along with their ill effects, is given below in a tabular form. Plastic waste, when dumped without a proper management channel, affects the soil quality and also possesses a potential threat to animals that unconsciously eat them.

Phthalates Sources of Exposure Health Impact
Dimethyl Phthalate Industrial Liberations And Pesticides/Insecticides Affects The Musculoskeletal System
Diethyl Phthalate Personal Care Products And Pharmaceuticals Reduced Growth Rate
Di-n-butyl Phthalate Adhesives Along With Personal care Products And pharmaceuticals Reduction In The Sperm Count And Affects The Reproductive System
Benzyl Butyl Phthalate Vinyl Flooring And Synthetic leather Cryptorchidism
Diethyl Hexyl Phthalate Food Containers And Packaging Hepatocellular Carcinoma

A country like India, that harnesses pisciculture at a large-scale, is affected when plastic waste is dumped in water bodies, because of biomagnification and bio-amplification of the toxic materials.

Representational image. Credit: Vanita Ganesh

The advancement of the science and the emergence of the latest technologies have made the attention of the commons to shift to reusable plastics and biodegradable materials including plastic bags, packaging wastes, or metalised packaging waste.

Although the transition from the conventional plastics to reusable plastics seems to be an easy choice, the cost of these biodegradable products turns out to be the biggest obstacle.

It’s you who needs to figure out how to make these material made available to the commons making the cost and the availability of these products the same as the conventional plastic bags.

Featured image for representation only.
Featured image source: Financial times.
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