This is with reference to “Treat Mother Earth as a human being” (June 14). Innovation is generally for the welfare of the society but it can cause destruction as well. Plastic is one of the materials that poses environmental problem though it is light weight and flexible to use. Synthetic polymers are easily moulded into complex shapes, have high chemical resistance, and are more or less elastic. Some can be formed into fibres or thin transparent films. These properties have made plastics popular in many durable or disposable goods and for packaging materials. Plastic, in the environment, is regarded more an aesthetic nuisance than a hazard, since the material is biologically quite inert.
According to an estimate, more than 100 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year all over the world. In India, it is only 2 million tonnes. In India, use of plastic is 2 kg per person per year while in European countries, it is 60 kg per person per year while that in US, it is 80 kg per person per year. Plastics are used because they are easy and cheap to make and they can last a long time. Unfortunately, these same useful qualities can make plastic a huge pollution problem. Because the plastic is cheap, it gets discarded easily and its persistence in the environment can harm. Urbanisation has added to the plastic pollution in concentrated form in cities. Plastic thrown on land can enter into drainage lines and choke them resulting in floods in local areas, and in cities. It was claimed in one of the programmes on a TV Channel that eating plastic bags results in death of 100 cattle per day in UP in India. In the stomach of one dead cow, as much as 35 kg of plastic was found. Because plastic does not decompose, and requires high energy ultra-violet light to break down, the amount of plastic waste in our oceans is steadily increasing. More than 90 per cent of the articles found on the beaches contained plastic.
The plastic rubbish found on beaches near urban areas tends to originate from use on land, such as packaging material used to wrap around other goods. This plastic can affect marine wildlife also in two important ways: By entangling creatures, and by being eaten by them. Turtles are particularly badly affected by plastic pollution, and all seven of the world's turtle species are already either endangered or threatened for a number of reasons. Turtles get entangled in fishing nets, and many sea turtles have been found dead with plastic bags in their stomachs. The position is worsening worldwide. Seventy five marine bird species are known to eat plastic articles. This includes 36 species found off South Africa. Biotechnological processes are being developed as an alternative to existing route or to get new biodegradable biopolymers. There does not seem to be any other alternative for replacement on large scale.