The Journey of a Plastic: From Making to Recycling

I originate from deep down from the Earth after millions of years. I’m picked up by the machinery which is collecting my friends and me, and they process us. I go under the distillation process, later separated from some of my colleagues. Then I go through processes like polymerization and polycondensation. Large chains of monomers make us form polymer chains and then distinguished me in two types, thermoplastics which softens on heating, and thermosets stay in the same state. I get melted to form long tubes and cut into small pellets. I get shipped to various places in different industries to make bottles commonly out of me or containers to store essential items. But, I’m sad that I’m leading to global pollution and let us know why.

This story was the plastic on its own. Now let me describe the story of plastics furthermore. These plastics are usually for single-use purposes or discarded in the open without considering the harmful effects of it on nature. About a billion or two make its way daily in the household, packaging sector, etc. Around 8 billion tons of plastic are present since the 1950s, and only 9 percent went through a recycling facility. In some countries like Kenya, the usage of plastic can lead to jail and maybe a hefty 40 thousand dollars fine. Other countries on the same track as France, where the government has been imposing taxes on single-usage plastics. The most polluted oceans, along with beaches filled with nearly 70 percent of plastic waste. Every minute, one million plastic bottles do quench the thirst, but not all the bottles do justice.

Plastic bottles captured in a net

The unfortunate fact is that the plastics every year kill over a million seabirds and animals along with us when we consume them in granular molecules unknowingly. The improper management of these plastic waste makes its way to developing countries when they discard it openly in the streams of rivers polluting the ecosystem and making it less sustainable for the aquatic species to survive. Recent research states these facts that when the final waste marked as recycled is not even destroyed or treated correctly—these results in an increase of ocean debris. Plastic pollution is going to double in the next few decades, as mentioned in a report by WWF, the World Wildlife Fund.

A seabird near an old fishing net.

In this pandemic, have you ever wondered where the masks, the gloves wore by the doctors, and the essential PPE suits end up? Although the hospitals do have an incinerator, a common man litters without any safety precaution, which may affect others if someone comes in contact with the items. However, if it finally makes its way to the water bodies, those can act as the medium to contaminate not only the virus but other diseases too.

What can we do on our end? We can follow the 3R’s or there are more: the commonly known are reduce, reuse, and recycle. By this, if we start sorting the waste and use them effectively, there won’t be a global issue when it can start with you. One step a wise man takes can save others on the way. Be that person and save the planet.

A person is sorting the bottle caps.