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Bad Effect of Plastic on Life

Bad Effect of Plastic on Life

The term “plastics” includes materials composed of various elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, and sulphur. Plastics typically have high molecular weight, meaning each molecule can have thousands of atoms bound together. Naturally occurring materials, such as wood, horn and rosin, are also composed of molecules of high molecular weight. The manufactured or synthetic plastics are often designed to mimic the properties of natural materials. Plastics, also called polymers, are produced by the conversion of natural products or by the synthesis from primary chemicals generally coming from oil, natural gas, or coal. Most plastics are based on the carbon atom. Silicones, which are based on the silicon atom, are an exception. The carbon atom can link to other atoms with up to four chemical bonds. When all of the bonds are to other carbon atoms, diamonds or graphite or carbon black soot may result. For plastics the carbon atoms are also connected to the aforementioned hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, or sulfur. When the connections of atoms result in long chains, like pearls on a string of pearls, the polymer is called a thermoplastic. Thermoplastics are characterized by being meltable. The thermoplastics all have repeat units, the smallest section of the chain that is identical. We call these repeat units unit cells. The vast majority of plastics, about 92%, are thermoplastics. 

The groups of atoms that are used to make unit cells are called monomers. For some plastics, such as polyethylene, the repeat unit can be just one carbon atom and two hydrogen atoms. For other plastics, such as nylons, the repeat unit can involve 38 or more atoms. When we combine monomers, we generate polymers or plastics. Raw materials form monomers that can be or are used to form unit cells. Monomers are used form polymers or plastics. When the connection of the carbon atoms forms two and three-dimensional networks instead of one-dimension chains, the polymer will be a thermoset plastic. Thermoset plastics are characterized by not being meltable. Thermoset plastics, such as epoxy adhesives or unsaturated polyester boat hulls and bathtubs or the phenolic adhesives used to make plywood, are created by the user mixing two chemicals and immediately using the mixture before the plastic “sets up” or cures.

The formation of the repeat units for thermoplastics usually begins with the formation of small carbon-based molecules that can be combined to form monomers. The monomers, in turn, are joined together by chemical polymerization mechanisms to form polymers. The raw material formation may begin by separating the hydrocarbon chemicals from natural gas, petroleum, or coal into pure streams of chemicals. Some are then processed in a “cracking process.” Here, in the presence of a catalyst, raw materials molecules are converted into monomers such as ethylene (ethene) C2H4, propylene (propene) C3H6, and butene C4H8 and others. All of these monomers contain double bonds between carbon atoms such that the carbon atoms can subsequently react to form polymers.Other raw material chemicals are isolated from petroleum, such as benzene and xylenes. These chemicals are reacted with others to form the monomers for polystyrene, nylons, and polyesters. The raw materials have been changed into monomers and no longer contain the petroleum fractions. Still other raw materials can be obtained from renewable resources, such as cellulose from wood to make cellulose butyrate. For the polymerization step to work efficiently, the monomers must be very pure. All manufacturers purify raw materials and monomers, capturing unused raw materials for reuse and byproducts for proper disposition.

Bad Effect of Plastic on Life

The use of plastic products has increased significantly in the recent past, with many enterprises joining the industry and many more varieties of plastics being made. Firms consider plastics easier and cheaper to manufacture as compared to other materials — such as metals and stones — because they’re produced from by products of crude oil and can be recycled. Consumers also consider plastics lighter, compared to other packaging materials. However, the wide use of plastic products has shortfalls.

Harmful Nature

Disposable plastics used in packaging foodstuff meant for human consumption contain harmful compounds. Improper disposal of these packaging products leads to these harmful compounds finding their way to water bodies, where they dissolve over a long time due to their non-biodegradable nature. Littered plastics are also harmful to animals because they occasionally eat them and die. Additionally, plastics fabrication involves the use of potentially dangerous chemicals, which are added as stabilizers or colorants. Most of these chemicals have not undergone an ecological risk appraisal, and their impact on human well-being and the environment is presently vague. One example is phthalates, which are used in the manufacture of PVC.

Environmental Degradation

Plastics are generally non-biodegradable; hence, they may take centuries to decay. This is due to the intermolecular bonds that constitute plastics, whose structure ensures that the plastics neither corrode nor decompose. Plastics disposed of indecently get washed away to water reservoirs. They clog waterways and float on reservoirs, polluting and making them unsightly.

Low Melting Point

Plastics generally have a low melting point, so they can’t be used where heat levels are high. This also means they cannot be used as protective barrier for furnaces. Some plastic products are highly flammable — polystyrene, acrylics, polyethylene and nylons commonly used in packaging, home and office appliances. This makes them a fire hazard.

Durability

Plastics generally have a short useful life compared to metals. This short life cycle results in pile-ups of unwanted garbage in the office, home or waste yards. Although some of the plastics are recycled, most remain uncollected in dump sites and pollute the environment. Additionally, polythene bags are easily carried by wind, something that makes them almost impossible to collect for recycling.

Glass

Reusable, recyclable and made from natural raw materials, glass is one of the most earth-friendly food storage containers available. Glass canning jars are reasonably priced and available at grocery, department and hardware stores. Unlike plastic containers, which scratch, absorb odors and discolor, there is no need to replace glass unless it breaks. Its longevity and ease of reuse make it exceptionally earth-friendly.

Compostable/Biodegradable

food containers labeled biodegradable can mislead consumers; they are not necessarily earth-friendly. Biodegradable products break down, but some might take many years to decompose, and others might release toxins into the environment as the containers decay. Biodegradable food containers designed for short-term storage are made from a variety of bio-based materials including sugar cane, bamboo and other fibers. These products break down quickly in compost facilities with no toxic byproducts.

To ensure your food containers are earth-friendly, check for certification by ASTM International (a materials standards organization), the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) or the U.S. Composting Council.

Metal

stainless steel food containers are washable, reusable and long-lasting, they are more expensive than other storage options. Besides being earth-friendly, metal food containers are also travel-friendly. They can be easily packed for at-school or at-work lunches, avoiding the waste created by take-out or convenience food packaging. Recycle coffee cans for storing dry foods such as beans, rice or sugar. Aluminum food storage containers are reusable and recyclable, but the extraction of aluminum is not earth-friendly. So, limit the use of containers made of aluminum.

Plastic

it does not have an earth-friendly reputation, some plastic is recyclable and safe for repeated use. Check the bottom of the container for plastics labeled 1PET, 2HDPE, 4LDPE and 5PP. Most of these plastics are accepted in municipal recycling programs and break down without toxic leaching. Avoid plastics with PVC and BPA because these compounds are toxic chemicals that can leach into food, especially when the container is heated.

Burning of plastic in the open air, leads to environmental pollution due to the release of poisonous chemicals. The polluted air when inhaled by humans and animals affect their health and can cause respiratory problems. Plastics are not bio- degradable, animals, thinking that plastic is food, eat it and choke to death. Plastic is harmful to the environment. We should try our best to reduce our usage of plastic to make the earth a better place….

By -Asst. Professor – Ms. Kumud Misra
Department -EDUCATION
UCBMSH Magazine – (YouthRainBow)
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