Some of the biggest inventions can create the biggest problems. This is true especially for material like plastic. Undoubtedly, one of the most widely utilized synthetic products, plastic is very convenient, cheap and durable. It has multifarious uses and found everywhere in the world.
However, the more we use something, the more we need to worry about the refuse and residue it leaves. With plastic, it is literally indecomposable and that leads to an even more stubborn pile of waste.
On the other hand, the production process of plastic from fossil fuels is another environmental concern on its own. The exhaustible and polluting nature of these fuels makes it all the more painful in terms of ecological damage to produce plastic on an industrial scale.
Some of the direct health effects of plastic are respiratory disorders, skin issues, digestive abnormalities, infertility etc. The plastic that finds its way into the river streams contaminates the water and makes it unfit for human use.
There is also burning or incineration of plastic which leads to even more pollution in the form of toxic fumes and greenhouse gases. Another point to note is that since the plastic waste can survive up to a thousand years without much wear, it gets magnified and accumulated as we go up the various food chains. These phenomena are known as bio-magnification and bio-accumulation respectively.
If we look at the big picture, plastic has a much more adverse impact on non-human life forms. Most of the plastic refuse is either dumped into the water bodies or buried inside the earth. Both of these situations lead to massive problems in various forms of the ecological supply chain.
The destruction of marine life has reached an alarming rate and we are already seeing a massive rate of extinction in terms of marine flora and fauna like pelagic turtles, sea birds, seals, jellyfish etc. Even the animals of the land are not immune to the dangers of engulfing plastic bags.
These festering dumps also become breeding grounds for various epidemics under the influence of sun and rain. The solution to the menace of plastic pollution is not a linear and simple one. It has to be designed as per the specifics of the area, nature of use/disuse, available resources for treatment and recycles etc.
However, one common need is to create awareness about the hazard of plastic pollution and educate the masses as well all the stakeholders. Once people are aware we need to back the popular sentiment with political consensus and will to establish a regime for robust corrective methods.
It may range from recycling or reuse of the plastic to an overall reduction of its use. We also have to develop organic substitute like paper or cloth to eliminate plastic use in the future.