Plastics

Plastics consist of a variation of materials deriving from petroleum. Plastics are made up from various combinations of elements. Plastics are easily moulded into shapes and degrade slowly. It is these qualities of plastics that make plastics so useful for many purposes.

However the production of plastics has many environmental consequences. The production of plastics involves a process called polymerization. Polymerization is the process whereby multiple monomers are joined in cohesion to form a polymer chain.These monomers are extracted from crude oils. The polymerization process causes the liquid monomers to change into solid polymers due to the increase of molecular weight. The production of plastics involves the extraction of monomers from crude oil such as petroleum. Crude oil is a non renewable resource so it is therefore imperative that the production of plastic is minimized. There are many different types of plastic packaging.

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Polyethylene terephthalate and high density polyethylene is used for bottling.Low density polyethylene is used for carrier bags and packaging films. Polypropylene is used for margarine tubs. Polystyrene is used for yoghurt pots, egg cartons, packaging for electronic goods and toys, foam hamburger boxes. Plastics are an essential part of the packaging industry.

Plastics properties enable it to be easy to handle in various environments. Plastic packaging provides sufficient protection of the content. Plastic does not rust or splinter.Plastics are lightweight and malleable and easy to transport.

These are the reasons why plastic is indispensible to modern day living. There is no suitable alternative to plastic so we should turn our attention to minimizing the production and usage of plastic. When plastics burn they burn faster and at higher temperatures than normal substances. They also release harmful chemicals such as chlorine, carbon monoxide and benzene into the atmosphere which has a negative environmental effect.Some plastics cannot be reused or recycled and are not biodegradable. This leads to a waste disposal and a huge environmental problem.

The improper disposal of plastics has a negative impact on ecosystems because it destroys natural habitats and animals. Plastic takes a long time to biodegrade so it remains a threat in the environment for an extended period of time. There is no other material that can be an alternative for the use of plastics in packaging despite the various issues that plastic poses on the environment.We must rather look towards minimizing the effect plastic inhibits on our environment and at cleaner methods for the disposal of plastic waste.

Recycling is the procedure by which used materials are processed into new products to prevent the waste of potentially useful materials. It aids in the reduction in consumption of fresh raw materials, lowers energy usage and reduces air and water pollution. Recycling will lead to the reduction in production of plastics thus decreasing these issues that threaten our environment.Recycling is essential in the modern world due to the already problematic environmental situation on our earth. Household waste causes pollution and endangers ecosystems.

Recycling has the potential to eliminate this unnecessary problem that effects our environment. South Africa has implemented policies and acts aimed at improving South Africa s environmental situation involving waste disposal. The Integrated Pollution and Waste Management Policy is aimed at minimising waste and providing communities with sufficient waste disposal systems.The Environmental Conservation Act deals with setting environmentally accepted standards for waste disposal by landfill and handling and disposal of hazardous waste. The Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act is aimed at preventing pollution through the incineration of waste. The availability of sufficient waste disposal systems is a huge step in solving the environmental problems associated with the improper disposal of materials. It is all very well having the systems available but there is still the issue of people utilising these systems.Litter is a huge problem in South Africa and a reason for this is that people are uneducated, ignorant or just don’t care about the effects of improper waste disposal on the environment.

It is crucial that people and communities are educated about the proper disposal of waste otherwise there is no point having the waste disposal systems. Education and awareness is the key. All South Africans must be made aware about waste disposal and the negative effects it imposes on the environment and South Africans must be encouraged to participate in making South Africa a cleaner more environmentally friendly country.