Nowadays, plastic can be seen everywhere, and you may come in contact with plastic or use it in your day. This material is considered important because it is produced in large quantities and can be used in distinctive ways in industries.
Plastic can’t be easily disintegrated, it can survive thousands of years, and we suffer from plastic pollution impacts. They might pose a significant challenge for us, but there are solutions as well to this issue.
Table of contents
What is plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution can be described as the accumulation of plastic waste in our environment. It mainly occurs in natural habitats like landfills, oceans, etc. Plastic pollution can take place when plastic products like packaging materials are discarded improperly and failed to be recycled or managed properly.
One thing to note here is that plastic doesn’t biodegrade easily. The reason is that they turn into smaller fragments that can persist for hundreds of years in our environment. Thus, global cooperation and sustainable practices are vital in preserving the planet’s health and mitigating the effects made by plastic pollution.
Why plastic pollution is a problem?
1) Scale of production and consumption
In recent decades, plastic production has skyrocketed, which caused plastic consumption deeply ingrained in society. It is overwhelming to see the generation of plastic sheer volume being used in waste management systems to handle.
2) Non-biodegradable nature
Have you ever thought about how plastic pollution affects the environment? The simple answer is their durable nature which gives them a long lifespan. As a result, they turn resistant to the natural degradation process. Traditional waste management methods like composting failed to break down plastics. This leads to plastic accumulation in the environment.
3) Inefficient waste collection and disposal
There are several regions whose waste collection infrastructure is inadequate which cause poor waste collection rates. Just because they lack recycling infrastructure and proper disposal facilities the problem is exacerbated. At last, a significant amount of plastic waste ends its journey in unauthorized oceans and dumpsites.
4) Contamination and sorting challenges
Plastic waste comes in several compositions, colors, and forms, which make it quite difficult to recycle and sort effectively. Recycling efforts can be complicated further due to contamination from incorrect disposal practices, food residues, and mixed materials. Such kind of contamination can reduce the quality and value of recycled plastics.
5) Lack of public awareness and behavior change
Public awareness about the importance of proper waste management practices and the environmental impacts of plastic waste is still low. So, it is better to reduce plastic waste generation by educating communities, behavior changes, and promoting sustainable alternatives.
Plastic pollution solutions
1) Reduce plastic consumption
Now, it is clear how crucial is to reduce the overall production and consumption of plastics. Anyone can achieve this by following the measures:
- No plastic bags: Start discouraging the use of plastic bags and switch to the adoption of reusable bags.
- Packaging redesign: Industries should be encouraged to try less plastic packaging or go for more sustainable alternatives like compostable materials.
- Promoting reusable alternatives: It is better to use reusable water bottles, food containers, and coffee cups rather than using plastic ones.
- Education and awareness campaigns: There is a need to raise awareness among the public about the environmental impacts made due to plastic consumption. Also, advocate for their behavior change.
2) Improve waste management infrastructure
- Effective waste collection: It is better to improve or develop a waste collection system mainly in regions having limited infrastructure. This will ensure the proper disposal and collection of plastic waste.
- Segregation and sorting: At the source, start encouraging waste segregation. Even implement efficient sorting facilities to make the recycling process easier.
- Enhanced recycling facilities: Processing capacity and recycling rates can be increased for distinctive kinds of plastics by investing in recycling technologies and infrastructure.
- Waste-to-energy conversion: Nothing is best than exploring waste-to-energy technologies like gasification. This will aid in generating energy from non-recyclable plastic waste and also ensure that there is proper emission control.
3) Promote recycling and circular economy
- Extended producer responsibility (EPR): EPR policies can be implemented where manufacturers can easily take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of a product, like safe disposal or recycling of plastic waste.
- Plastic recycling campaigns: Convenient collection points, incentives, and awareness campaigns can help businesses and individuals to participate in recycling programs.
- Innovation in recycling technologies: It would be better to support the development and research for advanced recycling technologies like chemical recycling. This can efficiently turn any plastic waste simply into a valuable raw material.
- The market for recycled plastics: Recycled plastics demand can be stimulated by promoting their usage in industries, providing incentives, and establishing regulations that mandate minimum recycled content.
4) Encourage sustainable alternatives and innovation
- Biodegradable and compostable plastics: You can switch to compostable or biodegradable plastics rather than using conventional plastics. Also, ensure they meet proper standards and get disposed of properly.
- Innovative materials: Support is required in the field of research and development of sustainable materials like plant-based bioplastics, which are manufactured from renewable resources.
- Design for recyclability: Product manufacturers and designers should be encouraged to create products that have a minimal environmental impact and get recycled easily.
- Collaboration and innovation hubs: Look for sustainable solutions and drive innovation for plastic waste management by fostering collaboration between governments, academia, and industries.
5) International cooperation and policy measures
- International agreements: Governments should be encouraged to participate in international agreements. They can take initiatives mainly based on reducing plastic pollution, like the Plastic Waste Partnership.
- Plastic waste trade regulation: Stricter regulations must be implemented on the global trade of plastic waste. With this, the dumping of plastic waste can be prevented in developing countries that follow inadequate waste management systems.
- Financial incentives and penalties: Financial incentives should be provided for sustainable practices. Also, penalties be imposed for non-compliance with waste management regulations.
- Collaboration among stakeholders: It is better to share best practices and address plastic waste management challenges by facilitating collaboration between communities, NGOs, governments, and businesses.
Addressing such challenges needs a multi-faceted approach comprising individuals, communities, governments, and industries. All you have to do is just switch to a holistic approach. With this, you can reduce plastic waste and mitigate the environmental impacts linked with plastic pollution.