PLASTIC – A HIDDEN STRAND IN THE GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS
In today’s world, climate change is one hot topic. Environmentalists are urging national leaders to formulate policies and implement changes to save the planet, because well, there is no planet B!. But did you know that climate change and plastic pollution are two sides of the same coin? We are immersed in formulating policies for climate change that I fear is sidelining the fact that we are also in the midst of a plastic waste crisis!. You must be thinking now, what exactly is turning plastic pollution into a global climate crisis? Did you know, almost all of the eight billion tons of plastic ever produced, continue to exist? There is a pretty common notion that plastic is harmful only when it gets dumped in the environment. But that is not the case! Cradle to grave, plastic causes harm!
Let us dive deep into its lifecycle.
- The birth of any plastic product begins by extracting crude oil or methane gas through mining, drilling, and fracking. Methane and toxic aerosol emissions, resource depletion, harmful wastewater contamination are some of the consequences.
- The next step is plastic refining, which is greenhouse-gas intensive. Carbon dioxide emissions from ethylene production are projected to expand by 34% between 2015 and 2030, globally.
- Next comes the packaging which can be processed in three different ways: landfill, incineration, or recycling.
Out of all the options, waste incineration has the strongest climate impact! On the other hand, landfilling has a much lower climate impact than incineration. Still, it has other problems of its own. Lastly, we have recycling, which we are taught is the best method. But it is rarely profitable.
IS THERE A SOLUTION?
With such harm being caused to nature at every step, one would ponder the solution for this? The answer lies in thinking critically about the materials to replace plastics. The best way is through resource conservation. However, achieving this would require a massive cultural shift and a makeover for each step in a product’s life cycle. But if there is a will, there is a way! Enactus SGGSCC’s Project Dariya, based on the same lines, is a relatively economical response to the big problem of unethical disposal of waste in landfills and oceans. It is a highly successful comprehensive model in which the first segment consists of a trash barrier called Wastrawl, which suspends in streams that block trash from entering into oceans. The second segment is a waste exchange platform that helps households in source segregation and disposal of their waste ethically. It uses recycling banks and a mobile application for an exchange of dry waste against points redeemable for necessities. The total waste collected is sold to the recycling operators for further conversion into new by-products like plastic furniture, segregation bins etc. Anyhow, let’s get this on the table right away. Concerning the climate crisis, we are in deep trouble. So yes, it’s time to pull your socks up.