Plastic Pollution

Accumulation of plastics in the environment results in Plastic Pollution, which causes an imbalance in ecological cycle. Plastic products take around 450 years for decomposing and after that approximately 50 years to decay. Hence, we can state that a plastic product takes around 500 years to decompose.

The first plastic was invented in the year 1862, which means that there are no plastic product that has been ever made on the earth has completely decomposed yet. Most of them have not even started to decompose.

Rapid urbanization and industrialization have led to air, water, and land pollution. Fishing industries release an enormous amount of garbage including plastic material (about 150,000 tons) every year in the water bodies like oceans, rivers, etc. which adversely affects the aquatic biodiversity.  The plastic garbage dumped with the household wastes on the land is sometimes consumed by animals like cows. The consumption of plastic materials by animals clogs the inner lining of the stomach and choke the respiratory system of such animals.

The structure of plastics:

Plastics are made up of polyethylene. As the name suggests it is made up of two words:

Poly + ethene        \(\rightarrow\)     Polyethene

polyethylene is a polymer of ethene. Depending on the arrangement of monomers, polyethylene can be classified as:

  • Linear polyethylene
  • Branched polyethylene
  1. Linear polyethylene: Linear Polyethene is just a long chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms bonded to it in a linear manner.

Linear polyethene

  1. Branched polyethylene: Branched polyethene is a crisscross structure of carbon and hydrogen atoms with substituent carbon atoms attached to the main carbon chain forming a branched structure.

By chemical properties of the polymer, there can be two type of plastics: thermoplastics and thermosetting plastics.

  • Thermoplastic: Polymers that can repeatedly be deformed by the application of heat are known as thermoplastic polymers. They are easier to bend.
  • Thermosetting: Polymers that change the shape on heating but once they are set, they cannot be remolded even on application of heat. Example: Bakelite and melamine. Bakelite has commonly used in the making of heat resistant handles of the cooking utensils, switches, etc.

Plastic is an extensively useful material but its usage should be minimized as it is one of the major sources of pollution and affects all forms of life. It can neither be burnt nor be decomposed. So the only remedy for this is to reduce its usage. Nowadays we have cloth or paper bags in some of the shops. Some stores charge money for the plastic bags so that its consumption can be reduced.


Practise This Question

The term applied to a species that can no longer be found living is