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79% of plastic in landfills, water bodies

 

79% of plastic in landfills, water bodies

 
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When Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last year given a call to save cows from plastic, his message brought into focus the hazards of this non-biodegradable product not only for animals but also for the overall environment.

Protection of cows or other animals from plastic can well be dealt with by civic authorities but the challenge to save the earth from plastic waste seems tough. The ecological hazards, posed by this conventional fossil fuel-based product, is much bigger across the globe where it pollutes water, air and soil, affecting human and aquatic lives.

An international journal, Science Advances, of the US-based non-profit organisation, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), has come out with a new study on plastic, quantifying its production and explaining how 79% of the total plastic waste of 6,300 million metric tons (MMT) is accumulated in landfills or in the natural environment (river system and oceans).

The study, 'Production, Use and Fate of all Plastics Ever Made', highlighted that if current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 MMT of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.

Main usage of plastics is in the form of carry bags, packaging films, wrapping materials, fluid containers, clothing, toys, household applications, industrial products, engineering applications and building materials. The conventional (fossil fuel-based) plastic waste is non-biodegradable and remains on landscape for several years polluting environment because life cycle of plastic waste is incomplete and ultimately it is dumped on the land-fill sites.

It is also well established that all types of plastics waste cannot be recycled. Therefore, it is accumulated into open drains, low-lying areas, river banks, coastal areas and sea-beaches, affecting soil, ground water and the surroundings.

The research study, published in Science Advances, is the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever made by developing and combining global data on production, use, and end-of-life fate of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives into a comprehensive material flow model.

Lead author of the study, Roland Geyer, along with co-authors Jenna R Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law noted in the research article that the growth of plastics production in the past 65 years has substantially outpaced any other manufactured material.

"The same properties that make plastics so versatile in innumerable applications—durability and resistance to degradation—make these materials difficult or impossible for nature to assimilate", said the authors while suggesting that reuse, material recycling, waste-to-energy, and conversion technologies must be carefully considered to design the best solutions to the environmental challenges posed by the enormous and sustained global growth in plastics production and use.

They estimate that 8300 MMT of virgin plastics have been produced to date in the world. As of 2015, approximately 6300 MMT of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

They noted that although there are emerging technologies, such as pyrolysis, which extracts fuel from plastic waste, to date, virtually all thermal destruction has been by incineration, with or without energy recovery. The environmental and health impacts of waste incinerators strongly depend on emission control technology, as well as incinerator design and operation. Finally, plastics can be discarded and either contained in a managed system, such as sanitary landfills, or left uncontained in open dumps or in the natural environment.

 


 

source:-http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/pollution/79-of-plastic-in-landfills-water-bodies/articleshow/59764892.cms