Polyethylene (or polyethene), the most common plastic, which was accidently developed in 1898 during high-pressure experiments on ethylene has wrapped up our lives so much that we are on the verge of suffocation. From what we eat to what we drink, everything comes in polyethene. The entire packaging industry is dependent on polyethene for it is light weighted, easy to mould, strong, corrosion resistant and most importantly “cheap”. Low cost of polyethene has not only made packaging business reasonable but has also blinded the consumers. The instant we discovered that Maggi has Lead content above 2.5 ppm, we put a ban on it while on the other hand the use of polyethene remains undeterred despite people’s complete knowledge of its non-biodegradable and hazardous nature. Not only is polyethene non-biodegradable, it causes cancers, produces toxic fumes when burnt, its recycling procedure is expensive and polluting, and it kills the animals who eat it, and still remains intact. The problems caused by plastic bags reaching drains and rivers are far worse.
Every now and then, authorities release directions to ban polyethene. The instructions fade into insignificance in a couple of months. Even if we ban polyethene and start using paper bags, it just shifts the problem towards the production of more paper pulp and thus deforestation.
The hard fact is, there is no easy way to get rid of polyethene. Well, researchers are studying on biodegradable materials such as polylactic acids, polyanhydrides and cellulose esters such as cellulose acetate and nitrocellulose, but complete replacement of polyethene with a material perfect in keeping with a sustainable developmental approach would certainly require some time. What should we do until then? We can use bags made of cloth to get vegetables and groceries, and avoid taking polyethene bags from vendors. Parents and teachers should hold the responsibility of teaching kids about the adverse effects of polyethene. Reuse of polyethene is the best remedy suggested by the environmentalists. And most importantly we must all be conscious of the manner in which we dispose polyethene ensuring proper dumping instead of careless lettering on open spaces and water bodies.
Earth is home to 7.125 billion people and more than 10 billion animals. We have survived evolution and world wars, we can’t lose to polyethene.
May the planet be pollution free!
We wish you all good! 🙂