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  • Aaryan Doshi

The Plastic Series: Why is Plastic So Bad?

The Plastic Series: Why is Plastic So Bad image: adobe firefly

Plastic is ubiquitous in our daily lives. Yet, why is the plastic industry always being singled out for environmental harm? Let us dig deeper into this.

Like everything else, it begins with how plastic contributes to fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. The methods that are used to make plastic such as processing fossil fuels and extracting petrochemicals, unleash great amounts of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere. Plastic often requires melting and molding to shape the form of the products that we consume. This results in further CO2 emissions into the environment. These processes are energy intensive and thus require high quantities of fossil fuels as energy sources.

Plastic plants are oftentimes in close proximity to marginalized communities all across the globe. These communities are disproportionately affected by the harmful CO2 emissions from plastic manufacturing processes.

​End-of-life treatment is often not a factor when it comes to producing plastic products. We produce more plastic than our capacity for disposal. Traditional methods deployed to handle plastic post its useful life stage such as recycling, landfill and incinerators remain challenging due to lack of capacity.  Let’s look at each of them.

Plastic takes a very long to disintegrate. So, even if we bury it in landfills, it can take years for it to disintegrate - a burden that we are passing to future generations. If we were to burn plastic, it would mean higher CO2 emissions and then the incineration process will require lot of fossil-fuel energy resulting in even more CO2 emissions. Finally, when it comes to recycling, plastic has a very low rate of and even if recycled, because of the way it is made, it can usually be used for just one more time.

Thus we end up accumulating single use plastic. Plastic remains openly untreated in our environment such as on beaches or massive floating garbage patches in the oceans causing immense harm to the surrounding flora and fauna.


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