As of 2018, about 380 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide each year. From the 1950s up to 2018, an estimated 6.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced worldwide, of which an estimated 9% has been recycled and another 12% has been incinerated.
Plastic is one of the most persistent pollutants on Earth. It’s made to last – and it does, often for 400 years or more. And at every step in its lifecycle, even long after it has been discarded, plastic creates greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to the warming of our world.
The negative impacts of using plastics are increasing by the day. Some of the main constituent of plastic; vinyl chloride, dioxins, and plasticizers are the main cause of hormone-disruption, reproductive dysfunction, breast growth and testicular cancer amongst others. The effects of plastic are also very noticeable in newborns and young children, especially via direct exposure.
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles (e.g. plastic bottles, bags and microbeads) in the Earth’s environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. It is estimated that 1.1 to 8.8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal communities each year.
In 2019 the lifecycle of global plastic production from extraction to disposal was equivalent to the impact on the climate of 189 500MW coal-fired power stations. By 2050, the report predicts, the global plastic footprint will be equivalent to 615 coal plants running at full capacity.
In the next 30 years, plastic waste in oceans will outweigh fish and other marine creatures at the current rate of dumping. The economic value of these materials, mostly single-use, is estimated to be $80-120 billion. They cause annual damage of $13 billion to marine ecosystems by affecting tourism, fishing, and shipping. Recent studies in the Arctic revealed that each litre of sea ice contains around 12,000 particles of microplastic, which scientists believe are being ingested by native animals and marine life.
In Pakistan, each year, 30 million tons of solid waste is produced, out of which nine percent are plastics. Here, 55 billion plastic bags a year are produced. These single-use non-biodegradable bags mostly find their way to open garbage dumps, landfill sites or municipal sewers, thus making sewage disposal systems less efficient by choking, thus adding to the costs of utility operations. Current urban waste management practices are partners to this crisis, since they only focus on picking waste from communal bins and disposing of it in urban fringes without segregation, material recovery or recycling, and also by not making communities act responsibly
Consumer industry must be made to practice a take-back policy, especially for PET bottles and containers. Local urban councils must ensure that plastic waste is not be directly disposed to a landfill site. Municipalities must impose fines on throwing plastic bags into their sewers. The informal sector must be made to use recyclables, most importantly plastics, through enhanced financial incentives.