Plastics came to commercial and industrial use in the latter part of nineteenth century and evolved over various stages. Now plastics are an essential part of commercial, medical and household use. It is convenient, comes in several shapes and sizes, is waterproof, disposable and light-weight.
Because of its convenience, there is massive demand for it. However, what happens to the discarded plastic? Plastic beverage bottles, fruit packaging boxes, plastic wrap sheets, Ziploc bags, plastic shopping bags, make up and toiletries containers are discarded in thousands everyday. Where do they go?
Plastic recycling is evidently happening as one can tell from the number of plastic bins placed all around the country and the blue bags provided by city government for recycling. But massive amounts of plastic still continue to make its way to landfills, oceans and other urban landscapes.
This happens due to many reasons. First, not all sorts of plastics are recyclable. Plastics come labelled in seven numbers, of which number 3, 6 and 7 are not recyclable. Number 6 plastic is Styrofoam, which has been banned in several cities across U.S. In Columbia, Missouri, the city government recently placed new colored bins in addition to older ones for disposable plastic bottles. The city government has also included more plastics for recycling such as beverage cups but plastic shopping bags, sleeves and Styrofoam are not accepted, making them a nuisance for the environment.
Much of the plastic ends up in ocean and according to some estimates by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Mother Jones magazine stated that US is not the top ocean plastic polluter. In fact, several countries rank above it in throwing plastic debris in to water. And plastic in ocean also comes from tiny microbeads in our toiletries.
So recycling alone isn’t the answer to plastic pollution. There are many efforts at reducing use of plastic or making alternative materials available. But considering how plastics have become an integral part of our lives, it is going to be a hard battle against plastic pollution.