Accumulation of plastics in the environment results in Plastic Pollution, which causes an imbalance in the 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 about 500 years to decompose.
The first plastic was invented in the year 1862, which means that no plastic product has ever been made on the earth has completely decomposed yet. Most of them have not even started to decompose.
Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation 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 to the water bodies like oceans, rivers, etc. which adversely affects the aquatic biodiversity. Animals like cows sometimes consume the plastic garbage dumped with the household wastes on the land. The consumption of plastic materials by animals clogs the inner lining of the stomach and chokes 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 → Polyethene
Polyethylene is a polymer of ethene. Depending on the arrangement of monomers, polyethylene can be classified as:
- Linear polyethylene
- Branched polyethylene
- Linear polyethylene:
Linear Polyethene is just a long chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms bonded to it in a linear manner.
- Branched polyethylene:
Branched polyethene is a criss-cross 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 types 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 remodelled even on application of heat. Example: Bakelite and melamine. Bakelite has commonly used in the making of heat-resistant handles of cooking utensils, switches, etc.
Plastic is an extensively useful material, but its use should be minimized as it is one of the significant sources of pollution and affects all forms of life. It can neither be burnt nor 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 plastic bags so that their consumption can be reduced.
To learn more about plastic pollution and other important types of pollution (such as soil pollution), download BYJU’S – The Learning App