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The Curious Case Of Plastic

Can you imagine a future where plastic isn’t available anymore?

As I look around my room writing this article, I can spot plastic at every corner and it is (un)surprising.

If you turn around and look at your home, you’d find more plastic than any other material.

Although we know that plastic is harmful, we are farthest from giving it up. We consume plastic every day. No, not like the food. We consume it the same way we consume electricity.

Can you imagine your city having a power cut 24/7? That would disturb the world so immensely that we’d all be out on the roads looking for the person who made that happen.

In the same way, plastic is something that is a constant in our life no matter what chaos spurs up. As children, we all learnt about plastic but did we ever pay attention to it? I didn’t either. I was having a dearth of topics while coming up with ideas for articles when one morning I came across an article. Let me narrate the series of events that took place, that made this article possible today:

On a bright Sunday morning, as I sat down on my chair with a cup of piping hot coffee, I read an article in the newspaper.

It was about the adverse effects of plastic.  You’d think I’d skip that article and move on to the next one because who doesn’t know the adverse effects of plastic? To my surprise, when I thought about it, I could hardly give 2 reasons.

Wondering how I got that dumb, I continued reading that article. Even though I had learnt most of this in school as a part of my environmental science syllabus, I didn’t quite understand the seriousness of this topic as a kid. Today as an adult, I’m better equipped at understanding the problems that arise with the consumption of plastic.

Before we move on to discussing if plastic will ever vanish from this world, let us first understand some basics about plastic.

How is it made? Plastics are made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt, and crude oil through a polymerization or polycondensation process.

I’m not going too deep into explaining how it is made, because honestly, I didn’t understand the jargon of how it is made. It would also become too boring for you and I cannot afford that.

Now, do you remember the adverse effects of plastic from your school syllabus? We shall first discuss the advantages and disadvantages of plastic before moving on to imagining a world without it.

 If one sits down and thinks about it, plastic also has an advantage. It is not only cheap and durable but it also replaces wood. If we all depended on wood for making all items, so many trees will have to be cut down. Spot the irony here. Plastic is saving the environment while also simultaneously destroying it.

What are the disadvantages?

The disposal of plastic poses a problem. Most plastic is not reusable. You cannot use a broken chair or an opened sachet of milk powder again. We all know from science that plastic takes millions of years to decompose. It stays in the environment throughout the span of our lives. Some plastics have outlived dinosaurs and humans for centuries now.

Most industries dispose of their plastic waste in the water. You can find plastic in the hollowest river to the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana trench.

Just imagine, a plastic cover is thrown into the river. It travels for days and finally is savored by a fish who isn’t aware that its life is in danger. Three fishermen begin on their quest to catch fish. Unfortunately, our plastic fish is caught and then sold at a shop. Coincidentally, you happen to order a fish at a restaurant and this fish reaches you. It has taken in toxins that will affect you too in the long run.

Apart from the fact that they are harmful to marine life, they also indirectly cause us problems.

Now imagine a cute cow crossing the road over to a disposal point. People of that colony have put all their garbage there and it has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects that bite your child when he goes out to play. Getting back to that cow, it eats a plastic cover and dies.

Who will take the responsibility for killing an innocent animal? No one. It will be just one of the many cows to die because humans are irresponsible.

We have highlighted several disadvantages. Any more and I’m sure you’d skip to the next article.

Now coming to our main point: will plastic ever be done with?

Although highly unlikely, it may happen centuries later. As long as you and I live, we are bound to experience plastic everywhere.

Hypothetically, if there was to be a dearth of plastic, we’d be in more trouble than ease.

Take a look around the room you’re sitting in. Count the number of items that are made with plastic. Now imagine, that plastic has been washed off the face of the earth. How do you think these materials would be made?

Plastic is cheap and durable which makes it a common material. If it isn’t available anymore, can you imagine buying a chair made out of rosewood? It’d cost you ten times more money and maintenance.

I asked five people their opinion on whether plastic should be given up or should it be in use?

One of them was a child and he didn’t understand the importance of what we were talking about, or so I imagined. But he said, according to what he has learnt so far, plastic is extremely important and if it becomes extinct the prices of ordinary things will hit the roof and we’ll all be in trouble. You won’t believe it, but the other 4 people nodded along with the words of the child.

It is truly wonderful that he has understood the irony. Plastic is useful and harmful.

The machines we use, the bottles that we use, the many ordinary things that are around our house, and the miniature artifacts are all harmful to the environment but if they didn’t exist, how would life move forward?

In my opinion, plastic is as important as we make it to be. There are several ways we can cut down the amount of plastic we use if only all of us are taught how to. Schools and colleges must ensure to teach children how plastic can be cut down and how it needs to be disposed of so that these future torchbearers will implement them.

In conclusion, I’d like to ask you, is plastic advantageous or disadvantageous?


 image credits: the guardian



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