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Polythene, an organic compound is a polymer(macromolecule)
consisting of long chains of monomer ethylene.
Pollution is any contaminants introduced into the environment that
causes instability to physical systems or living organism. The pollution caused by polythene substances (like plastic bags, asbestos etc.) which causes drastic effect to the environment is called
Plastic was invented in the early 20th century, Polythene came into the market for commercial use in 1982. It became popular commercially more than the other bags due to its low price and portability. Man has begun to lead a more comfortable life. But this comfort is taking its toll on the environment. Decades have passed since man began to understand the ill effects of the use of plastic, but not enough is being done to control and prevent further degradation. The main reason for this seems to be lethargy on the part of humans and the fact that the use of plastic makes life so easy for man that a world without plastic is simply unthinkable now. When people started to use and dispose polythene randomly, and with no effective disposal system, the environmental consequences led to worsening the situation. Next, in course of time, the situation became unbearable Plastic has made man get used to the ‘use and throw’ culture. Man does not even think twice about throwing away a plastic bag, perhaps because it comes so cheap. About 10 per cent of all garbage is plastic. Thousands and tonnes of plastic end up as waste every year. Though a majority of this is carry bags, only 50 per cent of plastic thrown is recycled. Despite being long lasting, plastic is thrown away after one use, as it is very economic. Polythene material can be seen spread over in the streets, in the neighbourhood, in the rivulets, river-banks of the small or big rivers. Even Ganga, Yamuna and other rivers all are covered with a thick layer of polythene material.
Take the example of a marriage Party. In every marriage function about 1000 to 1500 utensils of polythene material are used at one go. Use the Plates, glass, spoons, bowls all of plastic material and throw them away anywhere in and around the marriage Pandal. We spend a sizeable amount of money on these functions but don’t provide for garbage disposal. We have a system of first come first serve these days. In such buffet parties the guests who come first, promptly eat away the food in a hurry and throw away the garbage around them in the Pandal itself. They don’t even try to find out the garbage disposal Pot. The guests are inconvenienced because of the presence of the garbage on the floor. But who bothers! If the first party has done so, the second party would also have done the same if it would have been the first to be served. Globalization has added to this problem in a big way. Electronic gadgets all are designed with a view to use and throw, because the repairs are costly.
Polythene is non-degradable, it blocks the rainwater seeping into the soil so that ground water could not be recharged. Burying polythene bags in mountainous regions loosened the grip on vegetation and soil binding, causing landslides. It makes soil unsuitable for construction. When dumped in soil, polythene prevents emission of the toxic gases and pollutants from the earth. Polythene destroys the bacteria in the soil causing loss of soil fertility and the capacity of soil to yield agricultural produces diminished. Burning polythene bags is dangerous as it releases dioxin and hydrogen cyanide, the most carcinogenic and toxic substances. Inhalation of these poisonous gases causes severe and chronic health problem. These gases also pollute the air. Experts say that polythene bags and other plastic materials, if burnt below 7,000 degrees Celsius, create a dioxin like poisonous gas, which can cause cancer and skin diseases. Findings of a research on polythene conducted by the Korean Institute of Health Research, said workers at polythene factories are more exposed to cancer, skin disease and other fatal health problems.
Polythene expert also said that polythene-wrapped fish and meat generate a kind of heat that creates radiation which ultimately makes the food poisonous. Besides, the polythene-wrapped fish, meat and vegetables get infected by anaerobic bacteria, a germ responsible for skin disease and cancer. The colour used in polythene bags in our country is also a threat to public health. Most of the bags used were typically thrown in the streets or into drainage facilities. Since the bags did not degrade like paper bags, they very frequently ended up clogging drains and the sewerage system, which in turn created significant negative health effects. More than 80 diseases can be caused by water borne germs and these germs were provided with a suitable breeding ground when polythene bags clogged up the drains. Water-clogging is also believed to be the main cause of several outbreaks of dengue fever. Blocked drains forced sewer water into drinking water supplies during the floods turning the water virtually poisonous. During monsoon, following heavy rainfall, many roads and lanes submerged under water for weeks or more, due to blockage of the sewerage and drains by substances including polythene. Even the rivers lost their navigability and water had become toxic due to polythene bags which were deposited in millions on the river beds every day. 80% of blocked drains were blocked because of polythene. In a country prone to severe flooding, the blocking of drains by polythene bags severely exacerbated the problem.
In order to fight the menace of Polythene pollution, the Local Self Government institutions have come up with laws restricting the use of polythene. But the menace of polythene continues unabated. In fact it is no use thrusting such laws which are not practical. The fact is polythene is a most useful and convenient thing. You can store lot of material on a polythene bag. In USA and other foreign countries, polythene is used in a big way and it is recycled many times. But they do not face such problems as we face in India. There are strict laws for the disposal of the polythene bags. The polythene, after use, is dumped at the garbage disposal pots or Trashes. There are different garbage disposal pots for dumping polythene, paper or other waste material. There is strict enforcement of laws which provides for punitive measures if garbage is thrown at unspecified places. The citizens comply with the rules with responsibility. But in India there is no enforcement of law, with the result the entire road becomes the Garbage disposal place. We as citizen have a responsibility towards this burning problem. We should use the polythene material but must throw the same at specified garbage disposal
pots. Law prohibiting polythene in India has become a dead law as it is not possible to enforce it. A vigilant public opinion can only fight the problems arising out of the use of polythene, for which we all must owe responsibility seriously.
Garment owners said that by using the thread produced from garment waste they could make cheap environment friendly bags as a substitute to polythene, nylon or jute bags. They also said that the production cost would be cheaper than other bags in the market. Another answer for the substitute of polythene bags could be the “New Biodegradable Plastic Bag”, which was first introduced in England. Though its production cost is 15-20% higher than the polythene shopping bag, it is still a good substitute. Paper bags can also be used as a substitute for polythene bags even though they have a disadvantage of tearing fast or easily unlike the polybags. Using new technology and at bearable costs polybags can be made here that would decompose like the ones made in developed countries. Such polybags would not cost more than the ones now in use in Bangladesh. Moreover, the foreign importing countries often ask for bags which are naturally perishable. At present we have to import these bags, which mean increased costs for our exports. Now some changes in the production mechanism of the existing polythene industry can easily make the polythene-making factories to bio-degradable bag producers. Substantial amount of investments is required to undertake this project and government help is required. The problems that emerge after the ban polythene are mainly due to the failure of jute to become substitutes, the re-appearance of polybag in different forms, among others. Both the government and private sector can come forward to resolve all these problems by investing in jute industry to make it a feasible substitute, or in polythene industry to turn them into bio-degradable bag producers. This will also resolve the employment loss problem in the polythene industry.
How we can help the environment
1. Use CFC free products. Chloro Fluoro Carbons destroy the ozone layer, which
us from harmful UV rays.
2. Boycott products from companies that produce CFCs. 3. Carpool or walk to reduce carbon dioxide pollution in the air.
4. Do not use ivory or animal furs. Animals are killed to make these! 5. Eat dolphin safe tuna, or don't eat tuna at all. 6. Buy in bulk--this saves not only on packaging that you would eventually have to dispose of, but reduces tremendously the amount of industrial waste generated to make the packaging. 7. Shop for durable, long-lasting products. For example, use a metal razor instead of disposables, or a metal roasting pan instead of a disposable one. 8. Reuse whatever you can, including aluminum pie tins, glassware, plastic cutlery and aluminum foil. 9.Buy products with recycled contents. 10. Precycle--make an effort to buy products with recyclable packaging. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn, and start a backyard composting bin for yard clippings. 11. Instead of throwing away items such as furniture, appliances and clothing, look for a place to donate them. 12. Make recycling easy by putting recycle bins in the rooms where you use the products. If you open the mail in your den, keep a box nearby where you can put junk mail. If you want to save vegetable and fruit clippings for a composting pile, keep them in a container under the sink. 13. Replace paper cups, plates and napkins with washable, reusable cups and plates and cloth napkins. 14. Keep used paper in a stack and use the flip side for scrap work. 15. Try to buy items that are less toxic to the environment when produced. For example, use vinegar and water as a replacement to glass cleaner. 16. Keep in mind that trash generation is not confined to the home. 17. Remember the amount of packaging when choosing a restaurant for take-out food.
The Himachal Pradesh State Government has recently taken a much needed decision by imposing ban on the use of polythene carry bags having thickness less than 70 microns and size less than 12"x18". This has been made effective from 14th June, 2004 in the entire State in order to check indiscriminate throwing of plastic carry bags here and there including forest land, public places, roads and drains thereby causing serious problems related to sanitation and environmental degradation. The Government has been sensitive to the need of protecting environment as a result The Himachal Pradesh Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, was firstly enacted in1995. Keeping in view, the loopholes in implementation of prohibition on the traders, retailers and vendors in the State for using the coloured polythene carry bags manufactured from recycled plastic, for packaging goods sold by them, now the Government has taken this step and imposed such ban as an urgent need was also felt to lay dawn specifications of carry bags made of non-biodegradable material in order to ensure that polythene bags used by stockiest, traders, retailers and vendors should be reused again and again by the customers instead of being strewn everywhere. There is a provision of fine on distributors, stockists and retailers violating the ban under the rules. Jammu and Kashmir Polythene Manufacturers and Traders Association launched a concerted campaign on MARCH 03, 2004 to create awareness among the general public about proper disposal of used polythene bags and other plastic products waste. By holding seminars, media conference and symposia at various levels, the association instructed the consumers of polythene carrying bags to not throw the used bags in the lanes and drains, rather deposit the same in separate garbage dumps, so that the same can be scientifically disposed off or recycled. The meeting of the functionaries of the association, under the chairmanship of its president, Rakesh Gupta also instructed its member units, manufacturers and dealers of polythene bags to strictly adhere to the norms and rules as notified under SRO No. 698(E) of 17th June 2003, with regard to the size and weight of plastic carry bags to the manufactured and traded by them. The association hailed the stand taken by the Chairman of State Pollution Control Board, S.D. Swatantar that plastics have become an essential part of the modern day life and cannot be dispended with. Going a step further from its awareness drive against the use of polythene, the Haryana Pollution Control Board has decided to penalize those who violate the norms on polythene. Use of polythene with thickness of less than 30 microns will be made illegal. Coimbatore Corporation on conducted a meeting of traders, merchants, public and manufacturers of plastics to sensitise them to the need for banning plastics/polythene bags. The ban would come into effect from April 1.
The recent invention of fibre extracted from feathers has shown significant results. It can replace more expensive plastic and fibreglass. The feather fibre is more absorbent than wood fibres. More importantly, it comes from any bird and commercial chickens. Surely in the new millennium, we will continue to produce new and innovative environmentally friendly products that will enable the nation and its citizens to be eco-conscious. Enough is enough! We need to be disciplined and we must cultivate civic sense to save India from this disaster.