Editor’s comment: Solving the plastic menace

While it is important to ban single-use plastic items, there are benefits from recycling plastic products

Martin Menachery is editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.
Martin Menachery is editor of Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East.

Worldwide, there is an increasing concern about serious negative impact of plastic pollution, and well-managed campaigns are emerging in the horizon against this menace from governments, industry bodies, NGOs, etc. Of course, it is a fact that plastics have caused serious damage to our environment, and the planet’s ecosystem. The most striking question here is: Can we put a total ban on plastics? The answer certainly is a big no.

Every human being aspires for a better standard of living. In the modern lifestyle, items made out of plastics occupy an overwhelming role – not only in cities and towns, but also in villages. Disposable plastic syringes, food packaging boxes, and automobile parts are typical examples of the significance of the material in the day-to-day lives of every human being, from a long list of plastic products, which make our lives easier, safe and comfortable.

So, there are two sides to the story of plastic pollution. While standard plastic production processes cannot be considered to be harmful to the environment and living organisms based on stipulated international standards and regulations, whether the way the material is being used and disposed damage the nature is definitely a matter of concern. Human behaviour is the most important element in this peril.

It is worth mentioning here that, recently, the World Health Organization called for a further assessment of microplastics in the environment and their potential impacts on human health, following the release of an analysis of current research related to microplastics in drinking water. The organisation also called for a reduction in plastic pollution to benefit the environment and reduce human exposure.

The alarming nature of plastic pollution is clearly reflected in the statement issued by Dr Maria Neira, director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, at WHO, while releasing the analysis: “We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere – including in our drinking water. Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water do not appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more. We also need to stop the rise in plastic pollution worldwide.

Some remarkable initiatives to curb plastic pollution worldwide are Alliance to End Plastic Waste (including 39 major companies around the world that make, use, sell, process, collect, and recycle plastics), the Ocean Cleanup (a non-profit organisation, developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic), the UK Plastics Pact (a unique collaboration bringing together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK government and NGOs to tackle the issue of plastic waste), One Earth – One Ocean (developing and implementing a concept to free water bodies worldwide from plastic waste, oil and pollutants), GPCA’s Waste Free Environment (aiming to promote recycling and to raise awareness on responsible litter disposal), etc.

While it is important to ban single-use plastic items, there are benefits from recycling plastic products. Plastics are essential elements in modern human life and if disposed properly, can give another chance at providing for society.

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