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KVS Social Science Exhibition

Project Report
Plastics A New & Powerful Enemy of the
Prepared by:Jaspreet Singh
Class X
Roll No. - 33
Kendriya Vidyalaya (Reona Ucha)
Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab.


I express my sincere gratitude to all those

people who have been associated with this
project and shared their valuable opinions and
experiences to make the report even better.

I would like to express my deep sense of

gratitude to KVS Sangathan and our worthy
Principal Mrs.Paramjeet Kaur who gave me the
opportunity to participate in social science

I sincerely express my deep sense of gratitude

and immense respect to my guide Mr.Narender
Kumar for their valuable suggestions and
opinions regarding the project report.


This is to certify that this entitled; Project

Report on Plastics a new & powerful enemy
of the environment prepared by Jaspreet Singh
for KVS Social Science Exhibition is an authentic
work carried out by him under our supervision and
To the best of our knowledge, the matter embodied
in this Project report has not duplicated/copied from
any other student of other K.V or any other School.

Mrs. Paramjeet Kaur

Mr.Narender Kumar
TGT Social Studies
Kendriya Vidyalaya,
Kendriya Vidyalaya,

Reona Ucha (F.G.S.).

Reona Ucha (F.G.S.).



1. Introduction...
1.1What is Plastic?
1.2History of plastics

2. Uses.
2.1 Where it is used?

2.2 Why it is used?

3. Danger from Plastic.

3.1 Effects on health
3.2 Diseases caused by plastics

4. Plastics and Environment..

4.1 Effects on environment and Wildlife
4.2 Powerful enemy for environment

5. Waste management of plastics

5.1 Recycling
5.2 Biodegradability

6. Future of plastics.
7. Precautions..
8. Conclusion...


Plastics have transformed everyday life; usage is increasing and annual production is likely
to exceed 300 million tonnes by 2010. In this concluding paper to the Theme Issue on
Plastics, the Environment and Human Health, we synthesize current understanding of the
benefits and concerns surrounding the use of plastics and look to future priorities,
challenges and opportunities. It is evident that plastics bring many societal benefits and offer
future technological and medical advances. However, concerns about usage and disposal
are diverse and include accumulation of waste in landfills and in natural habitats, physical
problems for wildlife resulting from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the leaching of
chemicals from plastic products and the potential for plastics to transfer chemicals to wildlife
and humans. However, perhaps the most important overriding concern, which is implicit
throughout this volume, is that our current usage is not sustainable. Around 4 per cent of
world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics and a similar amount is used as
energy in the process. Yet over a third of current production is used to make items of
packaging, which are then rapidly discarded. Given our declining reserves of fossil fuels,
and finite capacity for disposal of waste to landfill, this linear use of hydrocarbons, via
packaging and other short-lived applications of plastic, is simply not sustainable. There are
solutions, including material reduction, design for end-of-life recyclability, increased recycling
capacity, development of bio-based feedstocks, strategies to reduce littering, the application
of green chemistry life-cycle analyses and revised risk assessment approaches. Such
measures will be most effective through the combined actions of the public, industry,
scientists and policymakers. There is some urgency, as the quantity of plastics produced in
the first 10 years of the current century is likely to approach the quantity produced in the
entire century that preceded.

1 - Introduction
1.1 Introduction
Plastic is a material consisting of any of a wide range of synthetic or semisynthetic organics that are malleable and can be molded into solid objects of
diverse shapes. Plastics are typically organic polymers of high molecular mass,
but they often contain other substances. They are usually synthetic, most
commonly derived from petrochemicals, but many are partially natural.
Plasticity is the general property of all materials that are able to irreversibly
deform without breaking, but this occurs to such a degree with this class of
moldable polymers that their name is an emphasis on this ability.
According to science
Plastics are synthetic chemicals extracted mainly from petroleum and composed
of hydrocarbons (compounds made from chains of hydrogen and
carbon atoms). Most plastics are polymers, long molecules made up of many
repetitions of a basic molecule called a monomer; in effect, the monomers are
like identical railroad cars coupled together to form a very long train. Thus, as
many as 50,000 molecules of ethylene (which has two carbon atoms bonded to
four hydrogen atoms) can be joined end to end into a familiar polymer called
polyethylene (or polythene). The process of building polymers by adding together
monomers is called additive polymerization. Another process called
condensation polymerization (or polycondensation) builds up polymers by
removing some atoms from each monomer so they can join together in a
different way. Polyesters such as Dacron and Terylene (two different brand
names for similar materials) are made by polycondensation. Whichever process
is used, the chemical properties of the monomer normally govern those of the
polymer that is eventually formed.

Artwork: Polymers are made from long chains of a basic unit called a monomer.
Polyethylene (polythene) is made by repeating the ethane monomer over and
over again.
Polymerization produces two different kinds of plastics. Sometimes, polymers
form very long straight or branched chains. These are present in socalled thermoplastics, which always soften when heated and harden when
cooled down. Examples include polyethylene and polystyrene. Polymers can
also form more complex three-dimensional structures, which give plastics very
different physical properties. Thermosetting plastics, as these are called,
harden the first time they are heated when cross-links form between different
plastic molecules. Thermosetting plastics never soften again no matter how
many times they are heated and this makes them particularly suitable for objects
that need to operate in hot environments. Epoxy resins and Bakelite are
examples of thermosetting plastics.


History of plastics

The development of plastics has evolved from the use of natural plastic
materials (e.g., chewing gum, shellac) to the use of chemically modified, natural

(e.g., rubber, nitrocellulose, collagen, galalite) and finally to completely synthetic

molecules (e.g., bakelite, epoxy, Polyvinyl chloride). Early plastics were bioderived materials such as egg and blood proteins, which are organic polymers.
In 1600 BC, Mesoamericans used natural rubber for balls, bands, and figurines.
Treated cattle horns were used as windows for lanterns in the Middle Ages.
Materials that mimicked the properties of horns were developed by treating milkproteins (casein) with lye.
In the 1800s, as industrial chemistry developed during the Industrial Revolution,
many materials were reported. The development of plastics also accelerated
with Charles Goodyear's discovery of vulcanization to thermoset materials
derived from natural rubber.
Parkesine is considered the first man-made plastic. The plastic material was
patented by Alexander Parkes, InBirmingham, UK in 1856.[9] It was unveiled
at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London.[10] Parkesine won a bronze
medal at the 1862 World's fair inLondon. Parkesine was made
from cellulose (the major component of plant cell walls) treated with nitric acid as
a solvent. The output of the process (commonly known as cellulose nitrate or
pyroxilin) could be dissolved in alcohol and hardened into a transparent and
elastic material that could be molded when heated. [11]By incorporating pigments
into the product, it could be made to resemble ivory.
In 1897, the Hanover, Germany mass printing press owner Wilhelm Krische was
commissioned to develop an alternative to blackboards. [12] The resultant hornlike plastic made from the milk protein casein was developed in cooperation with
the Austrian chemist (Friedrich) Adolph Spitteler (18461940). The final result
was unsuitable for the original purpose.[13] In 1893, French chemist Auguste
Trillat discovered the means to insolubilize casein by immersion in
formaldehyde, producing material marketed as galalith.[12]
In the early 1900s, Bakelite, the first fully synthetic thermoset, was reported by
Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland by using phenol and formaldehyde.

After World War I, improvements in chemical technology led to an explosion in

new forms of plastics, with mass production beginning in the 1940s and 1950s
(around World War II).[14] Among the earliest examples in the wave of new
polymers were polystyrene (PS), first produced by BASF in the 1930s,
andpolyvinyl chloride (PVC), first created in 1872 but commercially produced
in the late 1920s.[3] In 1923, Durite Plastics Inc. was the first manufacturer of
phenol-furfural resins.[15] In 1933, polyethylene was discovered by Imperial
Chemical Industries (ICI) researchers Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett.[3]
In 1954, Polypropylene was discovered by Giulio Natta and began to be
manufactured in 1957.[3]
In 1954, expanded polystyrene (used for building insulation, packaging, and
cups) was invented by Dow Chemical.[3]
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)'s discovery is credited to employees of
the Calico Printers' Association in the UK in 1941; it was licensed to DuPont for
the USA and ICI otherwise, and as one of the few plastics appropriate as a
replacement for glass in many circumstances, resulting in widespread use for
bottles in Europe.



The word plastic is derived from the Greek (plastikos) meaning "capable of being
shaped or molded", from (plastos) meaning "molded".[7][8] It refers to their
malleability, or plasticity during manufacture, that allows them to be cast, pressed,
or extruded into a variety of shapessuch as films, fibers, plates, tubes, bottles, boxes, and
much more.The common word plastic should not be confused with the technical
adjective plastic, which is applied to any material which undergoes a permanent change of
shape (plastic deformation) when strained beyond a certain point. Aluminum which is
stamped or forged, for instance, exhibits plasticity in this sense, but is not plastic in the
common sense; in contrast, in their finished forms, some plastics will break before
deforming and therefore are not plastic in the technical sense.

IUPAC definition

Generic term used in the case of polymeric material that may contain other substances
to improve performance and/or reduce costs.
Note 1: The use of this term instead of polymer is a source of confusion and thus is
not recommended.
Note 2: This term is used in polymer engineering for materials often compounded that
can be processed by flow.[1]

2 Uses

2.1 Where it is used?

Plastics have already displaced many traditional materials, such
as wood, stone, horn and bone, leather, paper, metal, glass, and ceramic, in most of their
former uses. In developed countries, about a third of plastic is used in packaging and
another third in buildings such as piping used inplumbing or vinyl siding.[3] Other uses
include automobiles (up to 20% plastic[3]), furniture, and toys.[3] In the developing world, the
ratios may be different - for example, reportedly 42% of India's consumption is used in
packaging.[3] Plastics have many uses in the medical field as well, to include polymer
implants, however the field of plastic surgery is not named for use of plastic material, but
rather the more generic meaning of the word plasticity in regards to the reshaping of flesh.

Common plastics and uses

A chair made with a polypropylene seat and Household items made of various types of plastic.

Polyester (PES) Fibers, textiles.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Carbonated drinks bottles, peanut butter jars,

plastic film, microwavable packaging.

Polyethylene (PE) Wide range of inexpensive uses including supermarket bags,

plastic bottles.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) Detergent bottles, milk jugs, and molded plastic

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Plumbing pipes and guttering, shower curtains, window
frames, flooring.

Polyvinylidene chloride (PVDC) (Saran) Food packaging.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) Outdoor furniture, siding, floor tiles, shower

curtains, clamshell packaging.

Polypropylene (PP) Bottle caps, drinking straws, yogurt containers, appliances, car
fenders (bumpers), plastic pressure pipe systems.

Polystyrene (PS) Packaging foam/"peanuts", food containers, plastic tableware,

disposable cups, plates, cutlery, CD and cassette boxes.

High impact polystyrene (HIPS) -: Refrigerator liners, food packaging, vending cups.

Polyamides (PA) (Nylons) Fibers, toothbrush bristles, tubing, fishing line, low
strength machine parts: under-the-hood car engine parts or gun frames.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) Electronic equipment cases (e.g., computer

monitors, printers, keyboards), drainage pipe.

Polyethylene/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PE/ABS) A slippery blend of PE and

ABS used in low-duty dry bearings.

Polycarbonate (PC) Compact discs, eyeglasses, riot shields, security windows,

traffic lights, lenses.

Polycarbonate/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (PC/ABS) A blend of PC and ABS

that creates a stronger plastic. Used in car interior and exterior parts, and mobile phone

Polyurethanes (PU) Cushioning foams, thermal insulation foams, surface coatings,

printing rollers (Currently 6th or 7th most commonly used plastic material, for instance
the most commonly used plastic in cars).

Special purpose plastics

Maleimide/Bismaleimide Used in high temperature composite materials.

Melamine formaldehyde (MF) One of the aminoplasts, and used as a multicolorable alternative to phenolics, for instance in moldings (e.g., break-resistance
alternatives to ceramic cups, plates and bowls for children) and the decorated top
surface layer of the paper laminates (e.g., Formica).

Plastarch material Biodegradable and heat resistant, thermoplastic composed

of modified corn starch.

Phenolics (PF) or (phenol formaldehydes) High modulus, relatively heat resistant,

and excellent fire resistant polymer. Used for insulating parts in electrical fixtures, paper
laminated products (e.g., Formica), thermally insulation foams. It is a thermosetting
plastic, with the familiar trade name Bakelite, that can be molded by heat and pressure
when mixed with a filler-like wood flour or can be cast in its unfilled liquid form or cast as
foam (e.g., Oasis). Problems include the probability of moldings naturally being dark
colors (red, green, brown), and as thermoset it is difficult to recycle.

Polyepoxide (Epoxy) Used as an adhesive, potting agent for electrical components,

and matrix for composite materials with hardeners including amine, amide, and Boron

Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) Strong, chemical- and heat-resistant

thermoplastic, biocompatibility allows for use in medical implant applications, aerospace
moldings. One of the most expensive commercial polymers.

Polyetherimide (PEI) (Ultem) A high temperature, chemically stable polymer that

does not crystallize.

PolyimideA High temperature plastic used in materials such as Kapton tape.

Polylactic acid (PLA) A biodegradable, thermoplastic found converted into a variety

of aliphatic polyesters derived from lactic acid which in turn can be made by
fermentation of various agricultural products such as corn starch, once made from dairy

Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) (Acrylic) Contact lenses (of the original "hard"
variety), glazing (best known in this form by its various trade names around the world;
e.g., Perspex, Oroglas, Plexiglas), aglets, fluorescent light diffusers, rear light covers for
vehicles. It forms the basis of artistic and commercial acrylic paints when suspended in
water with the use of other agents.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) Heat-resistant, low-friction coatings, used in things

like non-stick surfaces for frying pans, plumber's tape and water slides. It is more
commonly known as Teflon.

Urea-formaldehyde (UF) One of the aminoplasts and used as a multi-colorable

alternative to phenolics. Used as a wood adhesive (for plywood, chipboard, hardboard)
and electrical switch housings.

FuranResin based on Furfuryl Alcohol used in foundry sands and biologically

derived composites.

SiliconeHeat resistant resin used mainly as a sealant but also used for high
temperature cooking utensils and as a base resin for industrial paints.

PolysulfoneHigh temperature melt processable resin used in membranes, filtration

media, water heater dip tubes and other high temperature applications.

2.2 Why it is used?

Due to their relatively low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and imperviousness to
water, plastics are used in an enormous and expanding range of products, from paper clips
to spaceships.
Whether you are aware of it or not, plastics play an important part in your life. Plastics' versatility
allow it to be used in everything from car parts to doll parts, from soft drink bottles to the
refrigerators they are stored in. From the car you drive to work in to the television you watch
when you get home, plastics help make your life easier and better. So how it is that plastics have
become so widely used? How did plastics become the material of choice for so many varied
The simple answer is that plastics are the material that can provide the things consumers want
and need. Plastics have the unique capability to be manufactured to meet very specific functional
needs for consumers. So maybe there's another question that's relevant: What do I want?
Regardless of how you answer this question, plastics can probably satisfy your needs.
If a product is made of plastic, there's a reason. And chances are the reason has everything to
do with helping you, the consumer, get what you want: Health. Safety. Performance. Value.
Plastics help make these things possible.
For example

In Shopping
Just consider the changes we've seen in the grocery store in recent years. Plastic wrap helps
keep meat fresh while protecting it from the poking and prodding fingers of your fellow shoppers.
Plastic bottles mean you can actually lift an economy-size bottle of juice. And should you
accidentally drop that bottle, it's shatter-resistant. In each case, plastics help make your life
easier, healthier and safer.
Grocery Cart vs. Dent-Resistant Body Panel
Plastics also help you get maximum value from some of the big-ticket items you buy. Plastics
help make portable phones and computers that really are portable. They help make major
appliances - such as refrigerators or dishwashers - resist corrosion, last longer and operate more
efficiently. Plastic car fenders and body panels resist dings, so you can cruise the grocery store
parking lot with confidence.
Modern packaging -- such as heat-sealed plastic pouches and wraps -- helps keep food fresh
and free of contamination. That means the resources that went into producing the food aren't
wasted. It's the same thing once you get the food home -- plastic wraps and resealable
containers keep your leftovers protected. In fact, packaging experts have estimated that each
pound of plastic packaging can reduce food waste by up to 1.7 pounds.
Plastics can also help you bring home more product with less packaging. For example, just 2
pounds of plastic can deliver 1,000 ounces -- roughly 8 gallons -- of a beverage such as juice,
soda or water. You'd need 3 pounds of aluminum to bring home the same amount, 8 pounds of
steel or 27 pounds of glass. Not only do plastic bags require less total energy to produce than

paper bags, they conserve fuel in shipping. Plastics make packaging more efficient, which
ultimately conserves resources.
Light weighting
Plastics engineers are always working to do even more with less material. Since 1977, the 2-liter
plastic soft drink bottle has gone from weighing 68 grams to just 51 grams today, representing a
25 percent reduction per bottle. That saves more than 206 million pounds of packaging each
year. The 1-gallon plastic milk jug has undergone an even greater reduction, weighing 30 percent
less than what it did 20 years ago. How many of us can say that?
Doing more with less helps conserve resources in another way. It helps save energy. In fact,
plastics can play a significant role in energy conservation. Just look at the decision you're asked
to make at the grocery store check-out: "Paper or plastic?"
Not only do plastic bags require less total energy to produce than paper bags, they conserve fuel
in shipping. It takes seven trucks to carry the same number of paper bags as fits in one truckload
of plastic bags.

3 - Danger from Plastic

3.1 Effects on health

In addition to creating safety problems during production, many chemical additives that give
plastic products desirable performance properties also have negative environmental and human
health effects. These effects include

Direct toxicity, as in the cases of lead, cadmium, and mercury

Carcinogens, as in the case of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)

Endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancers, birth defects, immune

system supression and developmental problems in children.

Chemical Migration from Plastic Packaging into Contents

People are exposed to these chemicals not only during manufacturing, but also by using plastic
packages, because some chemicals migrate from the plastic packaging to the foods they
contain. Examples of plastics contaminating food have been reported with most plastic types,
including Styrene from polystyrene, plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and
Acetaldehyde from PET.Among the factors controlling migration are the chemical structure of the
migrants and the nature of the packaged food. In studies cited in Food Additives and
Contaminants, LDPE, HDPE, and polypropylene bottles released measurable levels of BHT,
Chimassorb 81, Irganox PS 800, Irganix 1076, and Irganox 1010 into their contents of vegetable
oil and ethanol. Evidence was also found that acetaldehyde migrated out of PET and into water.

3.2 Diseases caused by plastics

A chemical found in food tins and babys bottles has been linked to an increased risk of
developing heart problems, The Daily Telegraph reported. It said that scientists have
found that people with high levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies were a third more
likely to develop heart disease than those with low levels.

This study found some associations between BPA levels in the urine and the likelihood
of having certain diseases. However, it has several limitations, and cannot prove that
BPA caused these diseases.
BPA is commonly found in many household items, and there is likely to be little that
individuals can do to reduce their exposure. The US Department of Health and Human
Services has information for parents on reducing their childs exposure.
To date, researchers have found no conclusive evidence that BPA is harmful to humans.
Despite this, some countries have taken precautions and Canada has introduced
legislation to ban the use of polycarbonate in baby feeding bottles. The European Food
Safety Authority (EFSA) stated in 2008 that it considers levels of BPA exposure to be
safe, saying "after exposure to BPA the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates
the substance". It continues to monitor the situation and is currently evaluating the study
that led to the ban in Canada

What is polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE)?

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is clear, tough, and shatterproof. It provides a barrier to
oxygen, water, and carbon dioxide and is identified with the number 1. PET's ability to
contain carbon dioxide (carbonation) makes it ideal for use in carbonated soft drink bottles.
Take a look at the bottom of your soft drink bottle and you will most likely find a number 1
there. PET is also used to make bottles for water, juice, sports drinks, beer, mouthwash,
catsup, and salad dressing. You can also find it on your food jars for peanut butter, jam, jelly,
and pickles as well as in microwavable food trays.
According to the American Chemistry Council, PET has been approved as safe by the FDA
and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI). In 1994, ILSI stated that "PET polymer
has a long history of safe consumer use, which is supported by human experience and
numerous toxicity studies." The American Chemistry Council cautions that products made
with PET be used only as indicated by the manufacturer. For example, the microwavable
trays are only to be used one time and not to store or prepare foods other than those for
which they are intended.
Recent studies have shown that reusing bottles made of PET can in fact be dangerous. PET
was found to break down over time and leach into the beverage when the bottles were
reused. The toxin DEHA also appeared in the water sample from reused water bottles.
DEHA has been shown to cause liver problems, possible reproductive difficulties, and is
suspected to cause cancer in humans. Therefore, it's best to recycle these bottles without
reusing them.

4 - Plastics and Environment

4.1 Effects on environment and wildlife

Climate change

The effect of plastics on global warming is mixed. Plastics are generally made from
petroleum. If the plastic is incinerated, it increases carbon emissions; if it is placed in a
landfill, it becomes a carbon sink[65] although biodegradable plastics have caused methane
emissions.[66] Due to the lightness of plastic versus glass or metal, plastic may reduce energy
consumption. For example, packaging beverages in PET plastic rather than glass or metal is
estimated to save 52% in transportation energy.[3]
There are some accounts of effects of debris from terrestrial habitats, for example ingestion
by the endangered California condor, Gymnogyps californianus (Mee et al. 2007).
However, the vast majority of work describing environmental consequences of plastic debris
is from marine settings and more work on terrestrial and freshwater habitats is needed.
Plastic debris causes aesthetic problems, and it also presents a hazard to maritime activities
including fishing and tourism (Moore 2008; Gregory 2009). Discarded fishing nets
result in ghost fishing that may result in losses to commercial fisheries (Moore
2008; Brown & Macfadyen 2007). Floating plastic debris can rapidly become
colonized by marine organisms and since it can persist at the sea surface for substantial
periods, it may subsequently facilitate the transport of non-native or alien species (Barnes
2002; Barnes et al. 2009; Gregory 2009). However, the problems attracting most

public and media attention are those resulting in ingestion and entanglement by wildlife.
Over 260 species, including invertebrates, turtles, fish, seabirds and mammals, have been
reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement
and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death (Laist
1997; Derraik 2002; Gregory 2009). The limited monitoring data we have suggest
rates of entanglement have increased over time (Ryan et al. 2009). A wide range of
species with different modes of feeding including filter feeders, deposit feeders and
detritivores are known to ingest plastics. However, ingestion is likely to be particularly
problematic for species that specifically select plastic items because they mistake them for
their food. As a consequence, the incidence of ingestion can be extremely high in some
populations. For example, 95 per cent of fulmars washed ashore dead in the North Sea
have plastic in their guts, with substantial quantities of plastic being reported in the guts of
other birds, including albatross and prions (Gregory 2009). There are some very good
data on the quantity of debris ingested by seabirds recorded from the carcasses of dead
birds. This approach has been used to monitor temporal and spatial patterns in the
abundance of sea-surface plastic debris on regional scales around Europe (Van
Franeker et al. 2005; Ryan et al.2009).
An area of particular concern is the abundance of small plastic fragments or microplastics.
Fragments as small as 1.6 m have been identified in some marine habitats, and it seems
likely there will be even smaller pieces below current levels of detection. A recent workshop
convened in the USA by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded
that microplastics be defined as pieces <5 mm with a suggested lower size boundary of 333
m so as to focus on microplastics that will be captured using conventional sampling
approaches (Arthur et al. 2009). However, we consider it important that the abundance
of even smaller fragments is not neglected. Plastic fragments appear to form by the
mechanical and chemical deterioration of larger items. Alternative routes for microplastics to
enter the environment include the direct release of small pieces of plastics that are used as
abrasives in industrial and domestic cleaning applications (e.g. shot blasting or scrubbers
used in proprietary hand cleansers) and spillage of plastic pellets and powders that are used
as a feedstock for the manufacture of most plastic products. Data from shorelines, from the
open ocean and from debris ingested by seabirds, all indicate that quantities of plastic
fragments are increasing in the environment, and quantities on some shores are substantial

(>10% by weight of strandline material; Barnes et al. 2009). Laboratory experiments

have shown that small pieces such as these can be ingested by small marine invertebrates
including filter feeders, deposit feeders and detritivores (Thompson et al.2004), while
mussels were shown to retain plastic for over 48 days (Browne et al. 2008). However,
the extent and consequences of ingestion of microplastics by natural populations are not
In addition to the physical problems associated with plastic debris, there has been much
speculation that, if ingested, plastic has the potential to transfer toxic substances to the food
chain (see Teuten et al. 2009). In the marine environment, plastic debris such as
pellets, fragments and microplastics have been shown to contain organic contaminants
including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum
hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides (2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1 trichloroethane
(DDT) and its metabolites; together with hexachlorinated hexane (HCH)), polybrominated
diphenylethers (PBDEs), alkylphenols and BPA at concentrations ranging from ng g 1 to g
g1. Some of these compounds are added to plastics during manufacture while others
adsorb to plastic debris from the environment. Work in Japan has shown that plastics can
accumulate and concentrate persistent organic pollutants that have arisen in the
environment from other sources. These contaminants can become orders of magnitude
more concentrated on the surface of plastic debris than in the surrounding sea water
(Mato et al. 2001). Teuten et al. (2009) describe experiments to examine the
transfer of these contaminants from plastics to seabirds and other animals. The potential for
transport varies among contaminants, polymers and possibly also according to the state of
environmental weathering of the debris. Recent mathematical modelling studies have shown
that even very small quantities of plastics could facilitate transport of contaminants from
plastic to organisms upon ingestion. This could present a direct and important route for the
transport of chemicals to higher animals such as seabirds (Teuten et al. 2007,2009),
but will depend upon the nature of the habitat and the amount and type of plastics present.
For instance, the extent to which the presence of plastic particles might contribute to the
total burden of contaminants transferred from the environment to organisms will depend
upon competitive sorption and transport by other particulates (Arthur et al. 2009). The
abundance of fragments of plastic is increasing in the environment; these particles,
especially truly microscopic fragments less than the 333 m proposed by NOAA (see

earlier), have a relatively large surface area to volume ratio that is likely to facilitate the
transport of contaminants, and because of their size such fragments can be ingested by a
wide range of organisms. Hence, the potential for plastics to transport and release
chemicals to wildlife is an emerging area of concern.
More work will be needed to establish the full environmental relevance of plastics in the
transport of contaminants to organisms living in the natural environment, and the extent to
which these chemicals could then be transported along food chains. However, there is
already clear evidence that chemicals associated with plastic are potentially harmful to
wildlife. Data that have principally been collected using laboratory exposures are
summarized by Oehlmann et al. (2009). These show that phthalates and BPA affect
reproduction in all studied animal groups and impair development in crustaceans and
amphibians. Molluscs and amphibians appear to be particularly sensitive to these
compounds and biological effects have been observed in the low ng l1 to g l1 range. In
contrast, most effects in fish tend to occur at higher concentrations. Most plasticizers appear
to act by interfering with hormone function, although they can do this by several
mechanisms (Hu et al. 2009). Effects observed in the laboratory coincide with measured
environmental concentrations, thus there is a very real probability that these chemicals are
affecting natural populations (Oehlmann et al. 2009). BPA concentrations in aquatic
environments vary considerably, but can reach 21 g l1 in freshwater systems and
concentrations in sediments are generally several orders of magnitude higher than in the
water column. For example, in the River Elbe, Germany, BPA was measured at 0.77 g l 1 in
water compared with 343 g kg1 in sediment (dry weight). These findings are in stark
contrast with the European Union environmental risk assessment predicted environmental
concentrations of 0.12 g l1 for water and 1.6 g kg1 (dry weight) for sediments.
Phthalates and BPA can bioaccumulate in organisms, but there is much variability between
species and individuals according to the type of plasticizer and experimental protocol.
However, concentration factors are generally higher for invertebrates than vertebrates, and
can be especially high in some species of molluscs and crustaceans. While there is clear
evidence that these chemicals have adverse effects at environmentally relevant
concentrations in laboratory studies, there is a need for further research to establish
population-level effects in the natural environment (see discussion in Oehlmann et

al. 2009), to establish the long-term effects of exposures (particularly due to exposure of
embryos), to determine effects of exposure to contaminant mixtures and to establish the role
of plastics as sources (albeit not exclusive sources) of these contaminants
(see Meeker et al. (2009) for discussion of sources and routes of exposure).

4.2 Powerful enemy for environment

The global war against plastic
Kerala has banned plastic bags from this month. Its not a blanket ban, as only bags
below 30 microns are banned in hotels, hospitals and all retail stores. Kerala however
is not the first state in India to ban plastic bags. Sikkim did it quite some time ago and
what is admirable is that the ban is working. Sikkim did it even though the
state never had as bad a problem as the rest of the
The rest of India
Maharashtras experience is indicative of the situation in the
rest of the country. After theJuly 2005
floods in Mumbai (drains had got choked which led to
flooding during heavy rains) it was decided to ban plastic bags.
Did this last? Oh no, the plastic lobby worked overtime and got the ban revoked. And soon the
blanket ban was converted to a ban on bags below 50 microns and a dimension not less than 8 x
12 inches.
Even this has not been imposed strictly enough although the government insists that they are
doing all they can. Checking, imposing fines and confiscating illegal bags. The problem is with
the people apparently. No one listens and there is just this much that the police can doPrax has
described his first hand experience on his blog. As he says:
The whole route through the jungle was spewn with plastic waste of casual thrill seekers and
locals alike with plastic from biscuit packets, balaji wafers, Lays packs and mostly with gutka
and zarda packs like the Goa1000. Worse, at a few places there were broken beer bottles (people
have gotten drunk and drowned there).
The West Bengal government imposed a ban on the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags
less than 40 microns in thickness in June this year, but the bags are already back on the streets!
Tamil Nadu plans to ban plastic bags too (a blanket ban is proposed). The blanket ban idea

makes perfect sense as it is easy to get round a thickness banmanufacturers simply make
slightly thicker plastic bags. The Indian government for example has banned shopping bags
made of a thickness of less than 20 microns and manufacturers get away by making plastic bags
of 21microns! It doesnt solve the problemthat of plastic proliferation.
India recycles
And in any case, thick bags are not doing any good to the environment. The only argument in
their favour is that in India recycling is a well entrenched activity and thick bags are recycled.
Rag-pickers dont care about thin bags and they find their way into the drainsand the water
bodies. Being thin, they also have a tendency to fly away
The economic angle is very important here. In India recycling
isall about economics, while in the west plastics recycling has
everything to do with saving the environment. Perhaps that is
why recycling works better here than in the US, where less
than 5 percent of the 100 billion bags used each year are
recycled. InLondon, out of the 1.6 billion plastic bags that are
used annually, only one in 200 is recycled.
In France, hardly 4 percent of the three million tonnes of
plastics discarded annually is recycled.
India recycles about 40-80 per cent of all plastics
produced. Ragpickers (the majority are women and
children) do the job by digging into the wastebins
with their bare hands. They sell the stuff they have
sorted out to eke out a living.
What the world is doing about plastic
San Francisco has banned plastic bags, the first
American city to do so. Apparently the plastic-bag lobby fought hard to stop a ban in San
Francisco precisely because it feared that defeat there would start a nationwide trend.
Its too late. The trend is well on its way! Amit has described how in the US, they are at a stage
where supermarkets are increasingly selling reusable canvas bags and encouraging customers to
bring their own bags by giving small monetary discounts. There is another post of his, on
recycling in the US, which is worth a read. The first step is convincing people, making them
familiar with the idea, educating themonly then will the laws work
In Taiwan presently one has to pay for plastic bags, but this is set to change as Taiwan is
planning to ban plastic bags altogether as also disposable plastic plates, cups and cutlery used by
fast food vendors.

In Ireland one has to pay for a plastic bag and this extra charge has led to a 90 percent drop in
In Australia green bags costing a few dollars are available and towns like Coles Bay and
Huskisson have banned plastic bags. In France there is a huge movement to promote the use of
eco-friendly bags. Plastic bags will be banned in Paris later this year anyway, and by 2010 there
will be a ban all over France.
Bangladesh too has imposed a ban, but I do not know if this is working. In Uganda, a ban on
plastic shopping bags has been imposed recently, but the people arent listening!
Londoners have been asked to vote on whether they want a tax levied on all disposable
shopping bags or a total ban to ease the impact on the environment. Overall, in the UK there is
amove by large retailers to reward customers who bring their own bags or who reuse or recycle
existing bags.
Plastic Facts (Source:

2007: World consumption of plastic is 100 million tons, but in the 1950s it was
just 3 million tons.

1 ton of plastic represents around 20,000 two-liter bottles of water or 120,000

carrier bags

In 2004 global consumption of bottled water alone was 154 billion liters.

More than 1 million birds and 100,000 marine mammals perish each year by
either eating plastic waste or becoming trapped in it.

Plastic could take 500-1,000 years to break down.

Plastic waste in India is about 4.5 million tons a year.

The future
There is already a strong global movement to ban plastic as it can cause damage, not just to the
environment but also human beings. I think many countries are getting their act together.
What about us?? Well, its time to got back to our roots. Amit explained this in his post. He
talked about the good old days in India when cloth and jute bags were the norm. Abhorrence of
waste is ingrained in the Indian psycheand thats explained here:
All over the country, material objects like bottles are cleaned out and reused many times in many
different ways and if they break, they will be mended. Even plastic is often recycled so-called
plastic mechanics visit peoples houses to repair broken plastics by the simple process of heat
fusion. And when the material is threadbare, and completely beyond repair, it is often picked up
by ragpickers

Unfortunately the urban rich are changing their frugal habits and embracing a brand new
throwaway culture. Its sad because the west has realised its mistake and they will be fixing
things while we in India could get from bad to worse.
The only thing that will work in India is if
customers have to pay heavily for plastic bags.
Rs 10/- extra wont work with the new richI
think a minimum of Rs 50/- for just one big
thick plastic bag should do the job. As for the
smaller ones, Rs 25/- should be the minimum. If
the demand drops there is hope. Finally, its
what the people want. If they want the bags
there will always be unscrupulous people willing
to provide them. The fines for companies are
just Rs 5000/- and if a small bribe is given even this amount need not be paid.

5 - Waste management of plastics

5.1 Recycling
Thermoplastics can be remelted and reused, and thermoset plastics can be ground up and
used as filler, although the purity of the material tends to degrade with each reuse cycle.
There are methods by which plastics can be broken back down to a feedstock state.
The greatest challenge to the recycling of plastics is the difficulty of automating the sorting of
plastic wastes, making it labor-intensive. Typically, workers sort the plastic by looking at the
resin identification code, although common containers like soda bottles can be sorted from
memory. Typically, the caps for PETE bottles are made from a different kind of plastic which
is not recyclable, which presents additional problems to the automated sorting process.
Other recyclable materials such as metals are easier to process mechanically. However,
new processes of mechanical sorting are being developed to increase capacity and
efficiency of plastic recycling.
While containers are usually made from a single type and color of plastic, making them
relatively easy to be sorted, a consumer product like a cellular phone may have many small
parts consisting of over a dozen different types and colors of plastics. In such cases, the

resources it would take to separate the plastics far exceed their value and the item is
discarded. However, developments are taking place in the field of active disassembly, which
may result in more consumer product components being re-used or recycled. Recycling
certain types of plastics can be unprofitable, as well. For example, polystyrene is rarely
recycled because it is usually not cost effective. These unrecycled wastes are typically
disposed of in landfills, incinerated or used to produce electricity at waste-to-energy plants.
A first success in recycling of plastics is Vinyloop, a recycling process and an approach of
the industry to separate PVC from other materials through a process of dissolution, filtration
and separation of contaminations. A solvent is used in a closed loop to elute PVC from the
waste. This makes it possible to recycle composite structure PVC waste which normally is
being incinerated or put in a landfill. Vinyloop-based recycled PVC's primary energy demand
is 46 percent lower than conventional produced PVC. The global warming potential is 39
percent lower. This is why the use of recycled material leads to a significant better ecological
footprint.[72] This process was used after the Olympic Games in London 2012. Parts of
temporary Buildings like the Water Polo Arena or the Royal Artillery Barracks were recycled.
This way, the PVC Policy could be fulfilled which says that no PVC waste should be left after
the games.[73]
In 1988, to assist recycling of disposable items, the Plastic Bottle Institute of the Society of
the Plastics Industry devised a now-familiar scheme to mark plastic bottles by plastic type. A
plastic container using this scheme is marked with a triangle of three "chasing arrows",
which encloses a number giving the plastic type:

Plastics type marks: the resin identification code[74]

1. PET (PETE), polyethylene terephthalate

2. HDPE, high-density polyethylene
3. PVC, polyvinyl chloride
4. LDPE, low-density polyethylene,
5. PP, polypropylene
6. PS, polystyrene

7. Other types of plastics (see list, below)

5.2 Biodegradability
Biodegradable plastics are plastics that decompose by the action of living organisms,
usually bacteria.Two basic classes of biodegradable plastics exist: [1] Bioplastics, whose
components are derived from renewable raw materials and plastics made
from petrochemicals containing biodegradable additives which enhance biodegradation.

Examples of biodegradable plastics[edit]

Development of biodegradable containers

While aromatic polyesters are almost totally resistant to microbial attack,

most aliphatic polyesters are biodegradable due to their potentially
hydrolysable ester bonds:

Naturally Produced: Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) like the poly-3hydroxybutyrate (PHB), polyhydroxyvalerate (PHV) and polyhydroxyhexanoate

Renewable Resource: Polylactic acid (PLA);

Synthetic: Polybutylene succinate (PBS), polycaprolactone (PCL)...


Polyvinyl alcohol

Most of the starch derivatives

Cellulose esters like cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose and their derivatives

Enhanced biodegradable plastic with additives.[2]

Advantages and Disadvantages

Under proper conditions, some biodegradable plastics can degrade to the point where
microorganisms can completely metabolise them to carbon dioxide (and water). For
example, starch-based bioplastics produced from sustainable farming methods could be
almost carbon neutral.
There are allegations that "Oxo Biodegradable (OBD)" plastic bags can release metals, and
requires a great deal of time to degrade in certain circumstances


and that OBD plastics

may produce tiny fragments of plastic that do not continue to degrade at any appreciable
rate regardless of the environment.[7][8] The response of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics
Association ( is that OBD plastics do not contain metals. They contain salts
of metals, which are not prohibited by legislation and are in fact necessary as traceelements in the human diet. Oxo-biodegradation of polymer material has been studied in
depth at the Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Swedish University of
Agricultural Sciences. A peer-reviewed report of the work was published in Vol 96 of the
journal of Polymer Degradation & Stability (2011) at page 919-928, which shows 91%
biodegradation in a soil environment within 24 months, when tested in accordance with ISO

6. Future of plastics

Plastics offer considerable benefits for the future, but it is evident that our current
approaches to production, use and disposal are not sustainable and present concerns for
wildlife and human health. We have considerable knowledge about many of the
environmental hazards, and information on human health effects is growing, but many
concerns and uncertainties remain. There are solutions, but these can only be achieved by
combined actions (see summarytable 1). There is a role for individuals, via appropriate
use and disposal, particularly recycling; for industry by adopting green chemistry, material
reduction and by designing products for reuse and/or end-of-life recyclability and for
governments and policymakers by setting standards and targets, by defining appropriate
product labelling to inform and incentivize change and by funding relevant academic
research and technological developments. These measures must be considered within a
framework of lifecycle analysis and this should incorporate all of the key stages in plastic
production, including synthesis of the chemicals that are used in production, together with
usage and disposal. Relevant examples of lifecycle analysis are provided byThornton
(2002) and WRAP (2006) and this topic is discussed, and advocated, in more detail
inShaxson (2009). In our opinion, these actions are overdue and are now required with
urgent effect; there are diverse environmental hazards associated with the accumulation of
plastic waste and there are growing concerns about effects on human health, yet plastic
production continues to grow at approximately 9 per cent per annum (PlasticsEurope
2008). As a consequence, the quantity of plastics produced in the first 10 years of the
current century will approach the total that was produced in the entire century that preceded.

7 Precautions

Safeguards for the plastic-wary

* Don't microwave; use glass or microwavable ceramic.
* Avoid fatty and acidic foods and hot foods/drink.

Don't wash in dishwasher or in extremely hot water.

Don't clean with bleaches or harsh detergents.

Don't reuse single-use plastic products (i.e., No. 1 water bottles, plastic ware).

Discard products with visible wear (i.e., scratches, cracks, opaque tint).

Don't use plastic wrap in the microwave.

Sippy cups

Why polycarbonate? Because the main attribute of polycarbonate plastic is its

toughness, it's a perfect option for a sippy cup that must withstand wear and tear
from an active toddler.

Dangers: If the plastic bond begins to break down, the BPA in the cup can
leach into the tot's juice, possibly leaching at a higher rate if the juice is highly
acidic. Whether the chemicals in Junior's next swig can have a long-term
effect on him is not certain, but some studies suggest a possible connection
with behavior and neurological problems, including hyperactivity.

Precautions: Although the polycarbonate bond is extremely strong, some

studies suggest exposure to high-heat (dishwashers, hot drinks,
microwaves) can dramatically increase leaching. Regulatory agencies still
assure that the increased BPA levels seen in such studies are safe.
Baby bottles
* Why polycarbonate? Created primarily to replace highly breakable and
hazardous glass, polycarbonate was a shoo-in for the baby bottle industry.
Popular lines Playtex and Evenflo have a few BPA-free options (mostly glass),

but the polycarbonate plastic still is used heavily in the U.S. market and deemed safe
by the FDA.

Dangers: BPA in baby bottles has garnered the most attention. Sterilizing the bottles
and heating the formula (which often comes from a can lined with a BPA-containing
liner) raises concerns because heat increases leaching. In the United States, retailers
Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us have vowed to pull all polycarbonate bottles from their

Precautions: Using glass alternatives requires care because glass, particularly when
used around infants, creates a hazard of its own. With BPA-free plastic alternatives,
use the same precautions as with other plastic food ware.
Water bottles

Why polycarbonate? Strong polycarbonate is a good fit for the tough sports-bottle
industry. The popular Nalgene bottles are predominantly polycarbonate, but the
company announced in April it would phase out all BPA-containing products.

Dangers: Experts are less concerned with BPA-containing water bottles, unless they
are being used by children and pregnant women. Studies have linked the chemical with
chromosomal damage that could lead to birth defects, miscarriages or infertility.

8 Conclusion
How to cut down on plastics

Why is life never simple? If you're keen on helping the planet, complications
like this sound completely exasperating. But don't let that put you off. As many
environmental campaigners point out, there are some very simple solutions to
the plastics problem that everyone can bear in mind to make a real difference.
Instead of simply sending your plastics waste for recycling, remember the
saying "Reduce, repair, reuse, recycle". Recycling, though valuable, is only
slightly better than throwing something away: you still have to use energy and
water to recycle things and you probably create toxic waste products as well.
It's far better to reduce our need for plastics in the first place than to have to
dispose of them afterwards.
You can make a positive difference by actively cutting down on the plastics
you use. For example:
Get a reusable cotton bag and take that with you ever time you go
Buy your fruit and vegetables loose, avoiding the extra plastic on prepackaged items.
Use long-lasting items (such as razors and refillable pens) rather than
disposable ones. It can work out far cheaper in the long run.

If you break something, can you repair it simply and carry on using it?
Do you really have to buy a new one?
Can you give unwanted plastic items a new lease of life? Ice cream tubs
make great storage containers; vending machine cups can be turned
into plant pots; and you can use old plastic supermarket bags for holding
your litter.
When you do have to buy new things, why not buy ones made from
recycled materials? By helping to create a market for recycled products,
you encourage more manufacturers to recycle.

Making better plastics

Ironically, plastics are engineered to last. You may have noticed that some
plastics do, gradually, start to go cloudy or yellow after long exposure to
daylight (more specifically, in the ultraviolet light that sunlight contains). To
stop this happening, plastics manufacturers generally introduce extra
stabilizing chemicals to give their products longer life. With society's everincreasing focus on protecting the environment, there's a new emphasis on
designing plastics that will disappear much more quickly.
Broadly speaking, so-called "environmentally friendly" plastics fall into three
Bioplastics made from natural materials such as corn starch
Biodegradable plastics made from traditional petrochemicals, which
are engineered to break down more quickly
Eco/recycled plastics, which are simply plastics made from recycled
plastic materials rather than raw petrochemicals.

Biodegradable plastics

If you're in the habit of reading what supermarkets print on their plastic bags,
you may have noticed a lot of environmentally friendly statements appearing
over the last few years. Some stores now use what are described
as photodegradable, oxydegradable, or just biodegradable bags (in
practice, whatever they're called, it often means the same thing). As the name
suggests, these biodegradable plastics contain additives that cause them to
decay more rapidly in the presence of light and oxygen (moisture and heat
help too). Unlike bioplastics, biodegradable plastics are made of normal
(petrochemical) plastics and don't always break down into harmless
substances: sometimes they leave behind a toxic residue and that makes
them generally (but not always) unsuitable for composting.
Recycled plastics

One neat solution to the problem of plastic disposal is to recycle old plastic
materials (like used milk bottles) into new ones (such as items of clothing). A
product called ecoplastic is sold as a replacement for wood for use in outdoor
garden furniture and fence posts. Made from high-molecular polyethylene, the
manufacturers boast that it's long-lasting, attractive, relatively cheap, and nice
to look at.