Plastic was invented during the nineteenth century. It has since become commonplace in consumer goods. Plastics are synthetic organic polymers. They are lightweight, strong, durable, and cheap and that’s why industries prefer them. As of 2016, more than two hundred million tons of plastic were manufactured annually. A research conducted in 2017 found that more than nine billion tons of plastic had been produced since the 1950s when the material first began to gain in popularity. Here is a trade off between Plastic Ban: Economy vs Environment.
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The durable nature of plastic means that it may last for a thousand years, languishing in landfills, swirling in the oceans, and rolling into gutters and ditches. Companies around the globe are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic per year, and 70% of all the litter in the world’s seas and oceans is plastic. Research has found that plastic pollutes every place on Earth. Plastic pollution is embedded in arctic sea ice and drifts to the deepest ocean depths.
Amidst all these, several global organizations and environmentalists have asked for strict imposition of ban on plastic. How is it that plastic is harmful and what are its repercussions? How does plastic ban has impact on Economy and Environment?
Why is Plastic Harmful?
Plastic is made up of long chained carbon polymers and petroleum products that take hundreds of years to decompose. Due to the complex nature of the complex, micro-organisms cannot break it for further decomposition and the only method is known so far is to expose it in the sun for natural decay. This leads to accumulation of non-biodegradable plastic wastes for centuries.
Plastic is the primary cause of water pollution. Piles of plastic discarded in seas and oceans block the local drainage system. Several cases of floods in developing countries is a result of a blockage in drainage systems from plastic bags. Over the years, plastic also leach toxins in the water. When these toxins seep underground, they degrade the water table. Thus, plastics pose a severe health hazard for both the marine ecosystem and humans.
Given the non-biodegradable nature of plastic, it is often disposed off in landfills wherein it pollutes the area that could be used constructively otherwise. When left in the soil, it often releases toxic and affects the quality of the land. Also, it hinders replenishment of groundwater as it prevents water from soaking into the ground. Plastic dumped with garbage often finds a way into animals who feed into the garbage and chokes them to death.
Plastic has severely affected wildlife. A report suggests that more than a million birds and animals die annually due to plastics. When plastic combines with water, it releases toxic chemicals. Marine organisms often end up consuming these chemicals resulting in their frequent deaths. Also, plastic waste disposed of in landfills is consumed by birds and other animals which gets entangled in their organs and causes organ failure.
Plastic is produced by using a number of toxic chemicals like vinyl chloride, lead, cadmium, and phthalates among others. Its use and exposure have posed a severe threat to human health. Plastics have proven to be carcinogenic, toxic and mutagenic. The production, consumption, and usage of plastics is very harmful to humans.
Plastic pollution besides damaging the environment costs the economy millions of dollars. Excess pollution of land, air, and water due to plastics have negatively affected the tourism industry in the country and cleaning the landfill is a very costly affair. Also, the space lost due to landfills could be utilized for other productive purposes.
However, the plastic ban often meets resistance from businesses and civil societies due to the absence of any direct substitute. Here are some reasons why plastic ban might harm the economy.
Why Plastic Ban Might Harm the Economy
Problems in packaging
Plastic is most commonly used for packaging since it is cheap, durable and lightweight. Currently, the only alternative to plastic is paper bags and cloth bags. Paper bag is affordable and lightweight; however, it is not durable. Cloth bag, on the contrary, is costly in comparison to plastic. Also, it is bulky. The plastic ban would make packaging an issue for industries.
Plastic as a packaging material is very cheap compared to all other alternatives. When any other material substitutes plastic, it is bound to raise the production costs.
The market for plastic and plastic products is growing at an annual rate of 3% per year. It is expected to reach $654 billion by 2020. Banning plastics will impact the multi-billion dollar industry thereby seriously affecting the economy.
Hence we see that there is a tradeoff and we need to choose whether we should ban plastics considering its environmental impact or keep it considering its significance on the economy.
What Should be Done?
Given the risks of plastic consumption, a greener alternative should be developed to tackle the situation. We find that bio-degradable plastics have also started coming up which degrade within 90 days. Besides this, recycled materials can be used for packaging products. Following the plastic ban in Maharashtra, people have also started using paper bags and cloth bags for their daily shopping needs.
Rather than just dumping off the plastic waste in landfills or oceans, we should recycle it and put it for alternative use. Several companies and individuals are taking initiatives in this direction and are recycling plastic waste in alternate ways.
Reducing plastic consumption
We consume plastic at an enormous scale, and it might be difficult for us to get away with plastics right away. So the best way out is to gradually decrease plastic usage, first at a personal level like avoiding the use of plastic bottles, plastic carry bags, and plastic utensils. Gradually we can encourage our friends and relatives to join the movement. A small step taken in the right direction can go a long way in protecting society from the evils of plastic.
Gradually banning plastic
Banning plastic right way causes several problems to industries and households alike as we do not have a direct substitute for plastic. Encouraging plastic consumption is no choice either. So the Government should gradually ban plastic and give industries a deadline to replace their packaging with alternatives.
Stopping the use of plastic is not a one-day affair. It requires persistent efforts both at an individual level and corporate level. At an individual level, we can start by gradually reducing plastic consumption. While at an industrial level, the companies should start opting for substitutes for plastic. Extensive research should be carried out to minimize plastic consumption for a better tomorrow. The Government should make the laws stricter to encourage plastic recycling and gradually ban the use of plastics. Also, strict deadlines should be given to industries to adopt plastic alternatives. We all should step in to save society from the perils of plastic.
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