Plastic can be a threat to animal life, damaging the environment which in turn harms human life. Plastic has become a problem for more than a decade, yet many still neglect its potential damage. Recycling can be a solution to this problem, but plastic waste is still poorly managed by some governments.
The production of plastic emits Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere. Roughly around 2 billion tonnes, which accounted for 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The figure astonishingly doubled since 1995. The production of most plastics relies heavily on hydrocarbons, which are derived from fossil fuels such as crude oil, natural gas, and coal. Plastic is non-biodegradable because it’s primarily from long-chain polymers that are resistant to natural degradation processes. This is what makes plastic as we know it today: durable, flexible, and live longer. For its flexibility plastic can be formed into any product that we want. However, because of its durability plastic is hard to decompose, and requires hundreds of years.
This advantage can turn into something later hard to address, which is waste management. As a non-biodegradable product, if its waste is managed poorly can yield environmental problems. If plastic can exist for hundreds of years, and yet every day we still producing new plastic, imagine how much plastic will be on this planet. As such gigantic plastic waste also poses another problem. The only option that we have is actually recycling them instead of producing new ones.
Every year, at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean. This can pose a threat to aquatic animals. Over time, plastic can become microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic debris that are less than 5 millimeters in size. Some animals often mistake plastic for food. Scientists have found microplastic in the stomach of hundreds of species. In some cases, plastic consumption can lead to a reduction in stomach storage volume, making it all the more difficult for animals to eat, and eventually, they will die. If the total number of plastic dumps into the sea rises every year, more animals would be suffering and die. This will impact food security and have some economic impact.
In some regions, most plastics end up in landfill and are stuck there for a prolonged time. Over time, the total plastic will grow and making it even harder to manage. Because plastic does not break down easily to organic matter, it can persist in the landfill for hundreds of years, occupying valuable space and contributing to growing waste problems. Ultimately, plastic can release harmful chemicals and pollution to the environment.
Though recycling can be an effective method to deal with long-lasting plastic, practicing it have a lot of issues. For example, plastic sorting is a complex task. For the recycling process to be done, plastic must be sorted based on the type. Some types of plastic require different recycling processes. Moreover, some types of plastic require advanced technology, thus this also can be an issue since the infrastructure is not always ready.
Plastic is a badass that lives longer than us, the production of plastic should be reduced and we should focus on recycling available plastics. But recycling can be a challenge if plastic waste management is inadequate.