Tons of plastic is disposed on a daily basis all around the world. The plastic that we dispose of from our homes ultimately becomes a major portion of the total waste and is managed by various methods. Some plastic products like PVC piping takes decades to decompose while some consumer products only last a few years. The four main methods of plastic waste management are incineration, landfill, recycling, and biodegradation. We will be briefly discussing these four methods in the following points:
Landfills and the natural environment are the final dumping destinations for more than three-quarters of the total plastic waste produced on earth. Landfills take up huge pieces of land and chemical constituents and also waste the energy contained in the plastic waste. If the landfill preparation is not proper, then it can leach out chemicals in the nearby water body via flood water. Landfills also release harmful chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A into the soil and the surroundings.
Plastics have a high amount of stored energy because they are composed of petroleum or natural gas. Incineration is the form of waste management that actually exploits this energy, unlike landfills. However, burning of plastic in this process releases some poisonous gases that are harmful to the environment such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls.
It is the most effective way of dealing with the plastic menace but sadly, it is also the most under-utilized form of plastic waste management and requires awareness, economic feasibility, and public infrastructure to implement it. Recycling bins and specialized waste collecting trucks will surely help in starting the recycling movement and most of the developed countries have already started working on this. Contribution at an individual level is a must and there are many ways we can recycle plastic in our daily life.
Biodegradable plastic can solve a majority of plastic waste management issues as they can be slowly degraded by microorganisms. There have been many studies on biodegradable plastics along with their pros and cons. Although it has been discovered that there is a possibility of Oxo-biodegradable plastics releasing metals into the surrounding, these biodegradable plastics may be the key to our safe and healthy future.