February is going pretty well, the love month of the year. So, tell me, what lives forever- money, love, health, home? The answer is plastic. Of course, you are not surprised by this fact.
We all know plastics are an intimidating part of the human environment, with a life of 450 to 5000 years depending upon their density and form of it. The graphs telling usage and inappropriate disposal process will make you feel claustrophobic sitting at the comfort of your place.
However, we can help our home planet, earth, a bit. Why not read this article and decide never to use plastic (that would be a miracle), or we can learn together how to recycle soft plastic?
What is Soft Plastic?
Plastics are considered long-lasting, affordable, and readily available, but they have a high environmental cost. These convenient and valuable items are capable of causing severe health hazards.
Soft plastic covers a large part of the plastic world, and they do not degrade or decompose quickly and are lightweight. Soft plastic can be anything crunchable, and it can be plastic wraps, sweet wrappers, carrier bags, chips packets, biscuit wraps, even garbage bags. Knowingly or unknowingly, we are unable to invest in a green future concerning plastic recycling.
How is Soft Plastic Made?
We handle plastics almost every day. It’s as common as a human or maybe more than that. Plastics are naturally occurring non-renewable resources like natural gas, crude oil, coal, etc. Plastics are high molecular weight polymers composed of elements like:
After going through various processes, it holds the properties of plastic like strength, durability, flexibility and can be molded easily.
Soft plastics are commonly made from:
1. Low-density polyethylene
2. High-density polyethylene
It can also be made of:
1. Polyethylene terephthalate
2. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Plastics can be combined with different materials to result in a complex, layered material.
How to Recycle Soft Plastic?
Soft plastic pings back when you scrunch; hence, it is easy to identify it. Recycling units clean, compress and convert them into helpful material like building blocks, benches, decks, etc.
Many recycling research and development teams create innovative, sustainable routes to recycle soft plastic. Let’s learn how soft plastic recycling happens-
- You can collect all the crunchable soft plastic in a different bag.
- Make sure all the plastic is dry and clean.
- You can deposit this collection at your nearest recycling hub.
- Many departmental stores have recycling bins installed to dump soft plastic.
- This soft plastic trash is collected into recycling units.
What happens at soft plastic recycling units?
- The collected soft plastic trash is bundled up and weighed appropriately.
- After that, the cleaning process begins.
- Soft plastic can get stuck in the conveyor belt during the cleaning process, leading to the shutting down of the whole system.
- Contamination is also a big problem involved with this process. That’s why you are requested to clean and dry soft plastic deposits at home.
- Now, the clean and dry soft plastic undergoes an extrusion process where soft plastic is broken down into smaller pieces.
- After which, they are processed to create building material, furniture structure, pipes, fittings, and park benches.
Challenges With Soft Plastic
Plastic formation involves energy-intensive processes which produce greenhouse gases and hazardous chemicals dangerous to the environment.
According to the study published by Science Advance, in 2016, the U.S generated more plastic trash than any other country, 46.3 million tons. This study was published in 2020. By the time we already should multiply the amount of plastic trash that ends in landfills.
However, with emerging recycling industries and the government encouraging plans for the proper disposal of plastics, we feel hopeful. But wait, are they even true?
Recent reports by the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only 8.7% of total plastic trash goes through the proper recycling process. So, where did the huge amount of non-biodegradable trash go?
The ‘plastic’ truth of promises
The world ‘recycle’ and ‘sustainable’ sounds just like marketing bluffs played by authorities and big brands. Maybe the ‘behind the scenes’ story varies from person to person, while the green planet, the clean planet, becomes just a honey-dipped dish to get votes from bees. Oh, I mean, we need to work on recycling infrastructure.
Well, the study published in Eco Watch says a lot about the uncertainty factor about reducing, reusing, and recycling. When we do a sneak peek into this dark reality, the facts might be shocking.
When the marketing illusions set up their stalls to please consumers, the overconsumption of plastic and the inability to make it sustainable for the environment are contrasting. Furthermore, a Greenpeace Report in 2020 revealed that ‘many of the U.S plastics products labeled as recyclable actually could not be processed for the same.’
The challenges associated with the complex and expensive process of recycling plastic need the active participation of citizens and the government. We need improvised plans to process recyclable material to meet the needs of a sustainable and greener planet.
How Does it Affect the Environment?
The mindset of putting plastic in a blue bin and game over is inappropriate. It would not be wrong to say that we are probably sitting on our graves.
According to the data published by the environmental agency, only 10% of total plastic thrown in bins was recycled in the last 40 years.
Most of the non-recyclable and contaminated plastic end up in landfills, the garbage dump is growing with the speed of light. However, in the name of recycling and reusing trade, this garbage is sent to developing countries.
Developing countries’ challenging economics and helplessness are bound to accept the illegal and dangerous scraps.
Nature getting infected from ‘human trash.’
Marketing purposes have no constraints to lure consumers in the name of recycling and a sustainable environment; do we have any vaccination for people with destructive mindsets?
Talking about the trash which ends up in landfills, you should know how it enters the food cycle. Plastics have an ‘infinite’ lifespan. Henceforth, the plastic which ends up in landfills affects the soil and ocean and enters the food chain without getting noticed.
The land filled with plastic breaks down into microplastics responsible for serious contamination in food, air, and water. This man-made product has lived in the ocean for centuries and causes clogging, lower-Oxygen levels, and is harmful to aquatic organisms.
Plastic recycling is a grand challenge, but plastic accumulation is bigger. Microplastics permeate the body from food, water, and air sources. Due to their lifespan, and they deteriorate the health and hygiene by entering the food chain-
· Seafood gets primarily affected by the amount of trash that ends up in the ocean.
· Plastic garbage spoils the soil quality, fertility, and nutrient value.
· It is responsible for biomagnification (accumulation of a chemical by an organism from water and food exposure), especially in birds.
· Can weaken the immunity of human beings.
· It can accumulate in the body and increase the risk of chronic inflammation.
How to deal with it?
Although the recycling programs and infrastructure are not meeting requirements, we cannot blame them blindly. The words and efforts for recycling and a sustainable environment sound overwhelming, but it requires efforts from everyone around. Can you quit plastics; is the question here, but how?
Since we now have some community projects to recycle the trash and efficient people working to save the environment, they alone can’t make a difference until we join hands. So here are some solutions where you cut off the plastic use-
· Collect plastic trash separately and deposit it to the nearest authentic recycling center.
· This trash is responsible for carcinogenic pollutants, asthma, preterm birth, etc. Make sure to go for natural and renewable resources.
· Stick to the plan of reducing, reuse and recycling.
· Try to avoid or reduce single-use plastic.
· Choose organic over chemical-based products.
· Always carry your cloth bag for shopping.
· Choose natural sponges over plastic ones.
· Choose unwrapped products.
· Try cooking and baking at home.
· Don’t mix trash with medical waste.
What to Remember While Collecting Recyclable Trash?
Since humans can produce an immense amount of trash in a week, one should never forget to store trash separately according to their properties.
· You can collect soft plastic in a plastic bag, and it will be easy to pick. Make sure it is clean and dry, don’t throw it blindly.
· Medical waste like syringes, sanitary pads, and medicine wrappers/bottles should be collected in a different bag.
· Check with your local recycler if they accept soft plastics.
· Don’t include biodegradable and multi-layer plastic-like detergent bottles, gloves, etc., with it.
Alternative of Plastic
Indeed plastic is a big challenge the world is facing right now. However, plastic has benefits like durability and low cost, but it is non-biodegradable, making it a threat to the environment.
Do you know the major reason for the incompetency of the recycling project is?
Three times of it is consumed and trashed by the time one can collect a batch of plastic for recycling, making it nearly impossible to balance. To deal with this issue, we need to find alternatives to plastic.
Although you can never get rid of plastic entirely but with constant research and improvisation, people have successfully found some solution for you, and here they are-
· Liquid wood or bioplastic serves the purpose just like plastic in terms of appearance and function. It is biodegradable and not harmful to nature. This is a biopolymer extracted from pulp-based lignin, a by-product, and renewable resource.
This comes from paper mills where lignin is mixed and combined with water. This is placed in an environment with strong heat and pressure.
· Glass containers are surprisingly great choices to replace plastic. Your kitchen and storage can have glass in place of plastic containers, and they can be reused and recycled endlessly without causing any significant harm to nature.
· Clay-based containers are traditionally famous for storage and dinner sets. Clay is used to making coffee mugs, containers, and storage boxes. It can be coated with ceramic and colored with natural dyes.
· Starch-based plants are becoming a popular choice for low-cost, biodegradable plastic. It is obtained from the lactic acid produced when corn undergoes wet milling. They have a lifespan of 47 days, are non-toxic, and don’t cause any degradation.
When you search for alternatives to plastic, there will be a long list. You can choose any of them according to whether they are durable, affordable, or long-lasting.
Some Good Habits to Save the Planet
Hey there, how do you cover long distances by walking?
By taking a step at a time!!!
Just like that, we can be a part of significant changes. Our contribution to saving the planet and switching to sustainable life can make a big difference. You have to follow some steps and help the earth to breathe.
Because if we don’t stop now, experts have predicted that we will have more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.
· Avoid single-use plastic such as wrappers, straws, and packages.
· When you go shopping, always carry a cloth bag.
· Replace plastic storage containers in the kitchen, and you can choose glass or ceramic.
· Pay attention to your plastic trash output and your efforts to deposit it to the recycling center. Don’t let it end in landfills.
The Corona era has dramatically increased the overconsumption and production of single-use and multi-layer plastic. Coronavirus restriction played a significant role in plastic use and misuse; however, many recycling companies are actively working to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emission and zero plastic waste in coming years.
While writing this, I have already turned my house plastic-free and have registered with the recycling committee to deposit plastic trash, if any. Nature counts every effort. You can get inspired by Hikmet Kaya, who reforested the whole forest and has been doing it for 41 years. Let’s start from home; let’s make earth plastic-free!