What is Plastic
The term “Plastic” was introduced by Leo Baekeland, a Belgian Chemist, also known as “Father of the Plastic Industry” when he invented “Bakelite” in 1907. Bakelite is still used in electrical switches.
Plastic is a long chain of molecules of synthetic polymers with very high molecular mass normally generated through petroleum industry.
Synthetic polymers are formed of monomers which combine with themselves or other chemicals to form long chains of polymers. The main component in the chain is Carbon. Synthetic monomers form Teflon, PVC, Polythene etc.
What is Polythene
Polythene is made up of Ethylene which is a hydrocarbon (which means that it is a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms). Ethylene is produced in petrochemical industry. Same ethylene is also used in chemical weapons e.g. mustard gas.
Types of Polythene
There are various types of Polythene which is used in variety of equipments and processes based on its physical and chemical properties.
Polythene with ultra high molecular weight is used in machines, ships, artificial joints, medical implants, gears, bearings, bulletproof jackets etc.
Next comes high density Polythene which is used in making of cans, containers, bottles, water pipes etc.
Medium and Low density Polythene is used in gas pipes, packaging materials, carry bags, films, bags, sheets, toys, covering for cables, film wraps etc.
Very low density Polythene is used for making food wraps, food packaging, frozen food wraps, carry bags etc.
Polythene as a Threat to Environment
Polythene is not biodegradable and hence gets accumulated at water bodies and land fills. Also this gets ingested by domestic animals and marine creatures. These animal products get polluted with polythene and a part of it gets into the human beings creating health hazards for them.
However, new breakthroughs suggest that there are some bacterium which will be able to either use polythene as food or break it down into other biodegradable substances.
Notwithstanding, the new technology and inventions aiming to tackle plastic upsurge, the world is looking at a lot of plastic Debris spread in every nook and corner of this planet. In India, plastic is collected by the rag pickers and sold to factories for recycling. However, they can’t pick up small pieces of plastic or polythene. And these small pieces are either rests in land fills or transported to drains to rivers and sea. Either way these cause threat to flora and fauna of our planet.
Indian Government Legislation on Plastic Ban
In India, there is no common policy on plastic ban. Some states have taken up the ban seriously and implemented the same. But some other states are yet to take a call on this. Government of India has banned single use plastic, but what is single use plastic is left to the wisdoms of citizens.
Most of the Indian states have banned single use polythene bags of less than 50 micro metre (50 microns) thickness. However, the same is not properly implemented at most of the places.
A public awareness on bad effects of using polythene bags and a suitable alternative to polythene as packaging material may motivate common man to shun the use of Polythene bags.