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KVS Social Science Exhibition
Project Report On Plastics – A New & Powerful Enemy of the Environment. 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 exhibition.
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 guidance. 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 Principal TGT Social Studies Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kendriya Vidyalaya,
Reona Ucha (F.G.S.). Reona Ucha (F.G.S.).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Introduction………………………………………………………….……..……… 1.1What is Plastic? 1.2History of plastics 1.3Etymology
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…………………………………………………………………………...
Abstract 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 materials
(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. It was unveiled at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. 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. 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.  The resultant hornlike plastic made from the milk protein casein was developed in cooperation with the Austrian chemist (Friedrich) Adolph Spitteler (1846–1940). The final result was unsuitable for the original purpose. In 1893, French chemist Auguste Trillat discovered the means to insolubilize casein by immersion in formaldehyde, producing material marketed as galalith. 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). 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. In 1923, Durite Plastics Inc. was the first manufacturer of phenol-furfural resins. In 1933, polyethylene was discovered by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) researchers Reginald Gibson and Eric Fawcett. In 1954, Polypropylene was discovered by Giulio Natta and began to be manufactured in 1957. In 1954, expanded polystyrene (used for building insulation, packaging, and cups) was invented by Dow Chemical. 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 πλαστικός (plastikos) meaning "capable of being shaped or molded", from πλαστός (plastos) meaning "molded". It refers to their malleability, or plasticity during manufacture, that allows them to be cast, pressed, or extruded into a variety of shapes—such 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.
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.
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. Other uses include automobiles (up to 20% plastic), furniture, and toys. In the developing world, the ratios may be different - for example, reportedly 42% of India's consumption is used in packaging. 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 cases.
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 bodies.
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 Trifluoride.
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.
Polyimide—A 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 products.
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.
Furan—Resin based on Furfuryl Alcohol used in foundry sands and biologically derived composites.
Silicone—Heat resistant resin used mainly as a sealant but also used for high temperature cooking utensils and as a base resin for industrial paints.
Polysulfone—High 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 applications? 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. Packaging 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 baby’s 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 child’s 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
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 although biodegradable plastics have caused methane emissions. 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. Main 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 µm 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 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 known. 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 µg g–1. 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 µm 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 l–1 to µg l–1 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 µg l–1 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 µg l –1 in water compared with 343 µg kg–1 in sediment (dry weight). These findings are in stark contrast with the European Union environmental risk assessment predicted environmental concentrations of 0.12 µg l–1 for water and 1.6 µg kg–1 (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. It’s 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 country. The rest of India Maharashtra’s 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 do…Prax 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 ban…manufacturers 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 doesn’t solve the problem…that 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 don’t care about thin bags and they find their way into the drains…and 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.” It’s too late. The trend is well on it’s 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 them…only 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 usage! 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 aren’t 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: CNN.com)
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, it’s 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 psyche…and that’s 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 people’s 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. It’s sad because the west has realised it’s 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 won’t work with the new rich…I 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, it’s 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. 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. 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
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:  Bioplastics, whose components are derived from renewable raw materials and plastics made from petrochemicals containing biodegradable additives which enhance biodegradation.
Examples of biodegradable plastics
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 (PHH);
Renewable Resource: Polylactic acid (PLA);
Synthetic: Polybutylene succinate (PBS), polycaprolactone (PCL)...
Most of the starch derivatives
Cellulose esters like cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose and their derivatives (celluloid).
Enhanced biodegradable plastic with additives.
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. The response of the Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association (www.biodeg.org) 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 17556.
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. Alternatives 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 shelves.
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 shopping. 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 types: 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.
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.