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Essay

Made Ayu Priyanka

Year-Prize: The 11th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Beat Plastic Pollution

Comments 6 Comments    recommendations 0 recommendations

Growing Out of Plastic

Made Ayu Priyanka (Indonesia)

Honorable Mention

 

“A gust of wind passed by and the stench got stronger. I was standing in front of the mountain, rising as tall as 40 meters. I drew my attention from the gigantic height of the garbage mound, looked down and examined it closer. It was then that I saw hundreds and thousands of plastic bags. Red, white, black, and every other color available, laying there between other types of waste and waiting for another century to degrade.” That was my experience when I visited a 110 hectare landfill site in my country. Between all the dispute on pollution and environmental degradation, plastic pollution is one of the most prominent issue lately. Is it true, is plastic really killing our planet?
The production of plastic dates back to around 70 years ago, which is relatively new compared to other materials. The first fully synthetic man-made plastic was “Bakelite”, a light, long-lasting, versatile, heat resistant material, produced in 1909. For many years, plastic was mostly used for military purposes until World War II ended and it evolved way beyond our expectations. The proliferation of plastic began in 1950 where all kinds of effort and innovation are molded creating the plastic we use now, in packaging, medical equipment, construction, transportation and many other uses.
Here’s a summary of how much we depend on plastic. Plastic coats most electronic devices such as laptops and phones because it prevents electrocution and it is lightweight. Plastic is in our clothing as polyester, it covers food to keep them fresh, it’s liquid resistant ability is used to store fuzzy drinks and water, it stores our shampoo and it is even in our exfoliation face wash as microbeads. If plastic is that miraculous, then how did plastic go from life changing to life threatening? The answer is, practicality.
Single use or disposable plastic are plastic products designed to be used once or at maximum a couple of times for convenience and cost reduction. It is usually mass produced, cheap, and easy to be found in our daily lives such as plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws, and food packaging. These disposable plastic products are the actual public enemy that the world is trying to shine a light on, a silent killer of the environment especially for the ocean’s ecosystem.
The problem with single use plastic arises because they are either too thin, too small, or not destined to be recycled. The first step in recycling plastic is waste segregation. As an example, plastic bottles should be separated from the cap and the label. The bottle can be recycled while the cap and label can’t be. Materials that are to be recycled should not be mixed with other types of waste like last night’s seafood tofu otherwise it will be contaminated and is harder to recycle. If no immediate action is taken to recycle, plastic items would end up in landfills, and lasts ranging from a decade up to 1000 years before breaking down to smaller pieces. When we’re not so lucky, plastic waste would slip through the waste management system, enter waterways heading straight to our ocean. Each year, 300 million tons of plastic is produced, in which 8 million tons would end up in the ocean1 and most probably be eaten by marine animals.
In order to tackle negative impacts from single use plastic, there are many solutions that starts from our own habits. Eating lunch at the diner instead of packing it to eat at home would save at least a plastic bag, a plastic coated box and disposable plastic cutlery. If we need to pack it, it is better to bring our own lunchbox from home. A plastic bag has an average working life for only 15 minutes2, so when doing grocery shopping, bring a tote bag to carry all the supplies you will buy instead of using a plastic bag and bring a net bag instead of using individual plastic to pack fruits. Bring a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water which plastic will degrade only after 450 years. In the restaurant, refuse straws before they are provided, use a bamboo or aluminum one instead. The United States contributes to 500 million plastic straw usage per day3, so imagine how many straws are thrown worldwide each day!
Plastic pollution can be defeated by understanding the big picture that plastic is dangerous because we use it excessively. Our consumerism and negligence for the environment is the real enemy.  Since 40% of plastic produced is just used once and tossed4, by practicing the steps towards a less plastic dependent life, we can reduce plastic consumption by almost half. As a token of appreciation to our planet, let’s refuse plastic if we can’t reuse or recycle it, start small from ourselves and spread the spirit.

References

[1] [2] https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/
[3] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/news-plastic-drinking-straw-history-ban/
[4] https://www.nationalgeographic.org/projects/ocean-plastics/
https://futurism.com/plastic-decomposition/
http://www.historyofplastic.com/
http://www.bpf.co.uk/plastipedia/plastics_history/Default.aspx

 

 

6 Comments

Viraaj Kulshreshtha

Manjesh Jha

  • Manjesh Jha says :
    Congratulations Made Ayu.
    Posted 31-10-2018 19:50

Aman Gangwar

  • Aman Gangwar says :
    congrats made ayu.
    Posted 31-10-2018 19:48

Kanishka Thakur

Kajal Saini

  • Kajal Saini says :
    Congratulations Made Aye!!
    Posted 26-10-2018 14:03

Archa B Jayan

  • Archa B Jayan says :
    Congrats Made Ayu Priyanka!!!
    Posted 24-10-2018 00:56

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