It’s no secret that our planet is in trouble. But what if we could do something about it? Find out how does recycling plastic help the environment and benefit you!
Humans have progressed considerably from the time they learned to make implements using stone to make their lives easier.
From stone, they learned about metals like bronze and iron. After the accidental discovery of polystyrene, a thermoplastic, in the mid 19th century, the innovations made in the field are phenomenal. However, we had to wait for a century more for its commercial production. There was no looking back since then.
Today, almost a century later, plastic has become such an integral part of our lives that it is unimaginable how to live without it. But all the “progress” mentioned earlier was that really progress? Did we take on more than we can handle? Our current predicament seems to suggest that we took the wrong turn.
Civic authorities worldwide have been grappling with growing mountains of plastic waste in the past decades. The infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a shame we can all share the blame for.
Can we hope to go back a century and start all over again? As time travel still remains in fiction, what can we do about this?
One of the key suggestions to handling the plastic waste menace is recycling. Read on to learn why we recycle plastic, how we can improve the recycling of plastic waste, and how it can help the environment.
Why is recycling plastic important?
Why recycle plastic? What are the benefits of recycling plastic?
As mentioned earlier, once the commercial production of plastic began in the 1940s, it caught the imagination of the common man very quickly. The versatility of plastic and its products helped it eliminate competition from glass, wood, and a host of metals in a short time.
As its use skyrocketed, more research and innovations helped it gain an unfairly large market share in the packaging and manufacturing sector. It is cheap, lightweight, attractive, non-corroding, and easy to replace. As a manufacturer and consumer, what more can you hope for?
True, nothing more. Unfortunately, this success story doesn’t have a happy ending.
The use of plastic continued to expand all through the 20th century. Only at the fag end of the century did we realize what mess we have gotten ourselves into. It is not just the plastic use that is creating problems but the fact that it takes up to 500 years to decompose. So, the plastic waste that goes into the landfills remains there as it is for up to 500 years.
With the usage going up and waste mounts growing bigger, we have a huge environmental crisis on our hands.
Alarms were raised and efforts were made to turn the clock back by a small group of environmental lovers. However, the powers that be failed to grasp the severity of the situation and did not think it important to act with haste. So, the march of plastic continued unabated.
Come the 21st century, the situation is worse than ever before. Now, the world has woken up to the problems posed by plastic waste but seems helpless to do anything about it.
Among the sensible suggestions mooted to resolve the plastic menace are bringing down its use by moving on to alternative materials and recycling the plastic being used.
Many countries have banned single-use plastics in many areas. Governments and NGOs working in the field are promoting going back to the traditional ways. Despite all the efforts, the mountains of plastic waste in cities and towns are growing at an alarming rate.
Recycling can have a bigger impact. While the choice to use plastic is done at an individual level, the process of recycling is done after the waste is generated. If the agencies in charge of waste management can collect every piece of plastic thrown out as waste and recycle them, there is a bigger chance of making an impact.
Systematic collection, proper processing, and correct utilization of recycled plastic can help in curbing the problem.
How can recycling plastic help the environment?
The lifecycle of plastic doesn’t get over when the product made of plastic finishes its utility. By putting it in the garbage bin, you cannot wish them away. Plastic waste management is effective when there is awareness of its importance at every level – manufacturers, consumers, waste management companies, and civic authorities.
While manufacturers can lead the way with a sensible approach to plastic use, consumers can make a huge impact with their changing preferences. Waste management companies can devise a systematic plan to collect, recycle, and reutilize the plastic waste generated. The role of government in this is to formulate policies and run campaigns to raise awareness among all sections of society. Only when everyone works together can we hope to make an impact.
Here are some of the notable benefits of plastic recycling.
1. Reduces environmental pollution
Plastic is a by-product of crude oil or natural gas processing. It is made by burning these fossil fuels. We know that this results in greenhouse gas emissions. This is the problem plastic creates at the manufacturing stage.
After it reaches the landfill, plastic remains without much decomposition for centuries. When it ultimately decomposes, it releases toxins into the land and water bodies. Microplastics present in oceans are responsible for the death of marine life on a large scale.
By recycling, we can reduce the quantity of plastic being manufactured as well as the plastics that end up in landfills.
2. Reduces fossil fuel consumption
Manufacturing plastic from scratch needs more energy than that needed for recycling. Moreover, we are fast running out of petroleum reserves. By recycling, the available fossil fuels can be put to better use. Both as a fuel and as raw material, fossil fuel consumption can be brought down with recycling.
3. Reduces demand on landfills
More plastic waste recycled means less will end up in landfills. This means the existing landfills won’t fill up as quickly. This translates to more land space for humans and animals.
4. Makes oceans cleaner
It is estimated that 14 million tons of plastic waste find their way into the ocean every year. As they decompose, microplastics formed is a major source of threat to marine life. More recycling means fewer plastics turn up in the ocean.
Importance of recycling plastic
Often plastic is made out to be the villain of the whole story. The problem doesn’t lie with the plastic. It is quite harmless. It is the way we humans understand and treat it that is creating a monster out of plastic. It is the reckless manufacturing and equally reckless use and disposal of plastics that are creating the problem. This is aided in equal measure by the lack of policies regulating the mess we are in.
The first alarm was sounded about plastic pollution in the early 1970s. Even with 50 years of concerted efforts by environmental lovers in raising awareness about the harmful effects of plastic pollution, the sad truth is that we are recycling less than 9% of the plastic waste generated. More than 50% is ending up in the landfills and the rest enters the water bodies and finally, ends up in the oceans.
As an individual, you can do a lot in resolving this issue. Here are some suggestions on how you can make an impact.
- Say no to single-use plastics.
- Stop buying water in bottles.
- Don’t use products with microbeads.
- Reduce ordering out. Cook at home.
- Choose to buy second-hand products.
- Buy bigger packages.
- Carry your own bag for shopping.
- Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
With your choice, you can put pressure on manufacturers as well as policymakers to turn things around. There is no point in waiting for someone to act. That someone is you.