It’s all about Plastic
Before the invention of plastic, every manufacturing company relied on limited natural sources of raw materials like wood, metal and stones. In the mid-1800s, elephant ivory was used to make a lot of items from billiard balls to piano keys. This natural material was scarce and expensive, putting the elephant population at risk. That was when a billiards company in New York offered a reward of $10,000 for anyone who could come up with an alternative.
Taking up the challenge an amateur inventor, John Wesley Hyatt, invented the earliest form of what we know today as plastic. This new-found plastic was so cheap that suddenly, a new world of possibilities was born. We could make anything and everything from plastic, and so we did.
And we never looked back. The evolution of plastic over the years has made it one of the most common materials used in almost every industry, from paperclips to spaceships. Plastics are low cost, easy to manufacture, versatile and impervious to water making them that much of a problem to the environment.
When did it all go wrong?
Somewhere along the way, our use of plastic got out of hand. In the hunt to create an alternative that would save nature, we ended up with a material so much worse. Plastics are so durable that they are resistant to natural processes of degradation. And that’s the problem.
Right now our relationship with plastics is heart-breaking.
6.5 million tons of plastic waste has been generated (as of 2015). Only 9% was recycled.
Over 40% of plastic is used only once and thrown away
One million plastic bottles are sold every minute
More than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the ocean
73% of beach litter is plastic (grocery bags, food wrappers, bottle caps and more)
Where do we go next?
We’ve damaged the environment to such an extent that it’s crying out for help. The climate change is just one of the results of our actions. It’s time we made amends. As India hosts the World Environment Day (WED) on June 5th, we have a huge responsibility ahead of us. This year’s theme for WED is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ and focuses on four main campaigns.
Reduce single-use plastics –While they bring a great deal of convenience to the modern world, they are a major contributor to the plastic waste that is choking our oceans. If you can’t reuse, then refuse!
Improve plastic waste management – The waste that we generate needs to be managed in an effective way and not just thrown into the ocean or landfills. With Goa recycling plastic waste to make chairs, and Kerala’s fishermen using plastic to build roads, India is setting a good example to the rest of the world in managing plastic waste.
Phase out microplastics – All the plastic that gets thrown away breaks down into smaller pieces call microplastics and they are wreaking havoc on the planet. These are so small in size that fishes often confuse them for food. The only solution is to get rid of them.
This World Environment Day, let’s all pledge to reduce our plastic consumption and save the environment.
After all, we only have one!
Author: Manju Athilat
Manju is our resident content writer. With a masters degree in biomedical engineering and a passion for healthcare, she authors content with a focus on living a healthy lifestyle and practicing preventive health.