Stainless acrylic. Perhaps the most pervasive waste commodity on our planet, we can fairly thank it for hanging around! With more than 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, plastic is a very important part of every aspect of our lives. The worst part of it? All the plastic we make is sitting there, flapping its polymer body in the wind, waiting to be decomposed. And it will not happen soon at any time. It takes more than 1000 years for plastic to decompose and our not - so-friendly neighborhood waste will be around for a long, long time.
The impact of this waste, along with microbeads from personal care products contaminating marine and terrestrial food chains, is highly visible in the form of ocean and landfill debris. Furthermore, many low-and middle-income countries have adopted the uncontrolled practice of publicly burning plastic to get rid of this long-lasting pollution. While this method of eradication definitely eliminates plastic's physical existence, it does leave the planet with another problem, the greatest cause of death and disease in the environment: toxic air pollution.
Toxic Air Pollution Because of Plastics
According to a Medium article, "Open plastic burning releases large amounts of toxic health and climate-damaging pollution including fine particulate matter and black carbon, a major contributor to climate change. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and furans are among the most toxic chemicals that are widely released into the air while burning plastic waste; regular exposures cause cancer and interfere with hormone functions. "Now, a valid question arises: if it is so harmful to people's health and well-being, why still does it happen. According to atmospheric scientist Christine Wiedinmyer, "Ghana, Nepal, Mexico and other developing countries often lack the tax bases and infrastructure necessary to implement[ waste management] schemes. So residents and governments often burn piles of their trash in the open; remove the garbage from the ground but transfer it to the skies. "She further estimated that 1,1 billion tons of waste or more than 40% of the world's garbage was subjected to this burning method, thus increasing global emissions of harmful gasses and other pollutants by an exponential amount.
How can we help?
While these details sound unnerving and may make the future look somber, there is still hope! Today, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) are committed to speeding up efforts to reduce such air pollutants, while acknowledging and attempting to minimize the strong links between waste burning pollution, health and air pollution. For instance, according to Vital Strategies, the Urban Health Initiative of the WHO has defined improving municipal solid waste management in low-and middle-income cities as a major priority for improving both urban environmental and health conditions by replacing the common practice of open waste burning. In addition, the CCAC supports programs to provide technical assistance, training and sharing of knowledge among governments, enabling faster development of plans for solid waste management that protect health and the environment.
While organizations are definitely taking steps to control this significant issue, we, as well-informed citizens, can also begin at the grassroots level and do our bit to make the planet greener, cleaner and healthier. The problem is' how?'It's pretty simple, really, basically boiling down to the three golden Rs of sustainable living: reduction, recycling and reuse.
Changing our consumption habits to reduce waste output would result in a lesser amount of the problem that needs to be addressed. Reusing goods will allow plastic items to remain usable for longer rather than sitting in large piles of trash, causing harm to the earth. Eventually, proper management of plastic waste to allow recycling would discourage communities from using this dangerous technique to get rid of the garbage.
In addition, community-based solutions to decentralized waste separation and storage, improved resource recovery, composting, recycling, and waste reduction are not only safer for the environment but they have also created economic opportunities for millions of waste workers and are maintained at costs that are a fraction of what it would take to build any incinerator to burn plastics.
So, let's join forces to create a few minor lifestyle changes, thereby dramatically improving our planet, giving it the much-needed rebate from the pollution pressures!
In going #PlasticNeutral today, you will inspire and help countries in the Global South in their attempts to recycle plastics, instead of burning them.