University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Harmful Effects of Plastic Waste
Plastic wastes clog the drains and thus hit especially urban sewage systems. The plastic wastes being dumped into rivers, streams and sea contaminate the water, soil, marine life and also the air we breathe. Choked drains provide excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes besides causing flooding during the monsoon. Since plastic does not undergo bacterial decomposition, landfilling using plastic would mean preserving the poison forever. Any ttempt to get rid of plastic through landfills is also dangerous. Apart form toxic seepage from the landfill resulting in the contamination of precious water sources, the waste mass impedes the flow of ground water. Landfills are also prone to leaks. The wastes, especially cadmium and lead in the wastes, invariably mix with rain water, then seep through the ground and drain into nearby streams and lakes and other water bodies. Thus the water we use gets poisoned.
The only way to overcome the deadly and lasting danger of plastic pollution is to cut down the use of plastic, if possible avoid it altogether. Say NO to plastic whenever and wherever you can. Prefer to carry your own bags for grocery shopping, a jute or cloth bag. All attempts made to put an end to plastic pollution will be a REAL BENEFIT for your grand children. Let us contribute our part, save our environment from plastic pollution and make it a better environment for future.
Plastic causes serious damage to environment during its production process and during its disposal process. So the only way to reduce the hazards of plastic pollution is to reduce the use of plastic and thereby force a reduction in its production. The major chemicals that go into the making of plastic are highly toxic and pose serious threat to living beings of all species on earth. Some of the constituents of plastic such as benzene and vinyl chloride are proved to cause cancer, and other gases and liquid hydrocarbons spoil earth and air.
The noxious substances emitted during the production of plastic are synthetic chemicals like ethylene oxide, benzene and xylenes. Besides hitting hard the ecosystem which is already fragile, these chemicals can cause an array of maladies ranging from birth defects to cancer, damage the nervous system and the immune system and also adversely affect the blood and the kidneys. And, many of these toxic substance are emitted during recycling of plastic too. Like in the case of all other chemical substances, ‘disposal’ of plastic is a myth.
Once plastic is produced, the harm introduced is almost permanent. Plastic defies any kind of attempt at disposal, be it through recycling, burning or landfilling. When you recycle a hazard, you pave way for another hazard. Recycling of a plastic merely puts it back into the market place and eventually into the environment, thereby making no reduction in its use. The recycled plastic degrades in quality and necessitates the production of more new plastic to make the original product.
When plastic is burned, it has its own disadvantages. When burned, plastic releases a host of poisonous chemicals including dioxin into the air. Apart from these dangers, recycling of plastic is very uneconomical, dirty and labour intensive as has been revealed by studies conducted by many ‘Public Interest Research Groups’. Recycling of plastic is associated with skin and respiratory problems resulting from exposure to and inhalation of toxic fumes, especially hydrocarbons and residues released during the process.