Manipur still has not been successful in controlling plastic menace. This is in contrast to places like Sikkim where bans on single use plastic bags have been effectively accomplished.
In Manipur all single use plastic including plastic sheets, plastic wraps, multilayer plastic without marking and labelling and 1 litre PET bottles had been announced as banned by Manipur Pollution Control Board (MPCB) earlier but to little avail.
The centre also announced a ban on items with their thickness below 50 microns which includes plastic bags Cup played small bottles stores and certain types of switches in relation with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
According to the official reports given by Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC), the city constituting 27 wards generate around 130-150 metric ton of solid waste every day. While other urban local bodies generate below 5 metric ton. It is learnt that 5% of the total waste in Manipur is plastic. In total Manipur generates more than 178 tons of waste daily and 50 tonnes remain uncollected of which 5% of the total is plastic.
In Manipur successive governments have tried to ban single use plastic bag, but always succumbed to pressure groups to ultimately drops such campaigns. But in the absence of any scientific dispersal mechanism plastic wastes have ended up contaminating rivers and roadsides. The degradation of Nambul River, is the most prominent example for all to see.
Since most rivers in Imphal valley flow into Loktak Lake, it is only imaginable what the contamination level of this beautiful lake would be.
The term “plastics” includes materials composed of various elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine and sulphur. Plastics typically have high molecular weight, meaning each molecule can have thousands of atoms bound together. The manufactured or synthetic plastics are often designed to mimic the properties of naturally occurring materials such as wood, horn and rosin (solid form of resin) which are composed of molecules of high molecular weight. Plastics are made from natural materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gas, salt and crude oil through a polymerization for polycondensation process.
Plastics are a group of materials, either synthetic or naturally occurring, that may be shaped when soft and then hardened to retain the given shape. Plastics are polymers. It is the term commonly used to describe a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials that used in huge and growing range of applications.
Plastic has many excellent uses in almost every sector, including to produce packaging, helping to protect foods and beverages from damage and provides safety and extensive freshness of foods, in building and construction, in textiles, consumer products, transportation, electrical and electronics and industrial machinery. Meanwhile, single-use plastic like packaging bottles of water and juices end up in the rivers or in the environment and has a negative impact on animal and human life.
Reducing plastic waste will reduce the contamination of the environment and the soil, air, and water. It must be the less trash going to incinerators, landfills, rivers and lakes and oceans. We can save up depleting landfill space, reduce the plastic entering our local drains, rivers, precious lakes including Loktak lake, one of the precious water bodies of Manipur and the largest fresh water lake in North-east India, reduce burning plastic and releasing toxic gases.
Plastic sticks around in the environment for ages, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins. It may even lead to genocides of many innocent organisms by our careless actions. Plastics also contributes to global warming. Almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of planet-warming fuels (gas, oil and even coal).
According to UNESCO over 1 million marine animals including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles and birds are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Center For International Environmental Law(CIEL) report warns that greenhouse gas emissions from plastic jeopardize our ability to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degree Celsius.
By 2050, plastic production and incineration could emit 2.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year. Critically, these annual limitations will accumulate in the atmosphere over time.
There are different types of plastic. Each one of them is different from the others. Some of them are reusable, the others produce hazardous material after several uses. Some are easily recyclable, others need more sophisticated and intricate handlings in its recycling process.
People may find the different types of plastics with number 1 to 7 on the bottom or side of a plastic packaging container. This number is the plastic “resin identification code”, also known as the recycling number. Knowing this numbers can also provide guidance for consumers who want to recycle plastic containers. The resin identification code or recycling number on plastic identifies the type of plastic.
The seven known plastics are namely, Recycling number 1/ Resin ID code 1:Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE or Polyester), Recycling number 2/ Resin ID code 2:High-Density Polyethylene(HDPE), Recycling number 3/ Resin ID code3:Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Recycling number 4/ Resin ID code 4: Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Recycling number 5/ Resin ID code 5:Polypropylene (PP), Recycling number 6/ Resin ID code 6: Polystyrene (PS) and Recycling number 7/ Resin ID code 7: all the other plastics than those of the above plastics.
Resin ID code 1, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) also known as a wrinkle free fibre. It is different from the plastic bag that we commonly see at the market. PET is mostly used for food and drink packaging purposes due to its strong ability to prevent oxygen from getting in and spoiling the product inside. It also helps to keep the carbon dioxide in carbonated drinks from getting out.
Although PET is most likely to be picked up by recycling programs, this type of plastic contains antimony trioxide, a matter that is considered as a carcinogen and capable of causing cancer in a living tissue. The longer a liquid is left in PET container the greater the potential for the release of the antimony. Warm temperature inside cars, garages and enclosed storage could also increase the release of the hazardous matter.
Resin ID code 2, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is the most widely used type of plastic. It is used to make many types of bottles and containers. HDPE is a semi-translucent and highly solvent- resistance. It is least flexible and strongest of the polyethylene films making it perfect for applications where it needs to hold its shape.
Quite special compared to other types, HDPE has long virtually unbranched polymer chains which makes them really dense and thus, stronger and thicker from PET. HDPE is commonly used as the grocery bag, opaque milk or juice container, shampoo bottles and medicine bottle. Not only recyclable, HDPE is relatively more stable than PET. It is considered as a safer option for food and drinks use, although some studies have shown that it can leach estrogen-mimicking additive chemicals that could disrupt human’s hormonal system when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Resin ID Code 3, polyvinyl chloride PVC is typically used in toys, blister wrap, cling wrap, detergent bottles, blood bags and medical tubing. PVC or vinyl used to be the second most widely used plastic resin in the world after (after Polyethylene), before the manufacture and disposal process of PVC has been declared as the cause of serious health risks and environmental pollution issues. In the term of toxicity, PVC is considered as the most hazardous plastic. The use of it may leach a variety of toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, lead, dioxins, mercury and cadmium.
Several of the chemicals mentioned may cause cancer; it could also cause allergic symptoms in children and disrupt the human’s hormonal system. PVC is also the rarely accepted by recycling programs. This is why PVC is better best to be avoided at all cost.
Raising ID code 4, Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) are the most used family of plastics in the world. This type of plastic has the simplest plastic polymer chemical structure, making it very easy and very cheap to process. LDPE polymers have significant chain branching including long side chains making it less dense and less crystalline (structurally ordered) and thus generally thinner more flexible form of polyethylene. LDPE is mostly used for bags (grocery, bread, frozen food bags, garbage), plastic wraps; coatings for paper milk cartons and hot & cold beverage cups; some squeezable bottles (honey, mustard oil, other edible oils), food storage containers, container lids. Also used for wires and cable covering. Although some studies have shown that LDPE could also cause unhealthy hormonal effects in humans, LDPE is considered as a safer plastic option for food and drink use. Unfortunately, this type of plastic is quite difficult to be recycled.
Resin ID code 5, Polypropylene (PP)- Stiffer and more resistant to heat, PP is widely used for hot food containers. Its strength quality is somewhere between LDPE and HDPE. Besides in thermal vest and car parts, PP is also included in a disposable diaper and sanitary pad liners. Same as LDPE, PP is considered a safer plastic option for food and drink use. And although it bears all those amazing qualities, PP is not quite recyclable and could also cause asthma and hormone disruption in human.
Resin ID code 6, Polystyrene (PS) is the styrofoam we all commonly used for food containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, packaging and also bike helmet. When exposed with hot and oily food, PS could leach styrene that is considered as brain and nervous system toxicant. It could also affect genes, liver and immune system. On top of all of those risks, PS has a low cycling rate.
Resin ID code 7, it is all the other plastics than those identified by number 1-6 and also plastic that may be layered or mixed with other types of plastics, such as bioplastics. Polycarbonate (PC) is the most common plastic in this category, is not used as much in recent years due to it being associated with bisphenol A (BPA). PC is also known by various name: Lexan, Makrolan and Makroclear. Ironically, PC is typically used for baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, water gallon, metal food can liner, ketchup container and dental sealants.
Due to its toxicity, several countries have banned the use of PC for baby Bottles and infant formula packaging. The BPA that contained inside PC have been linked to numerous health problems including chromosome damage in female ovaries, decrease sperm production in males, early onset of puberty and various behavioral changes. It has also been linked to altered immune function, sex reversal in frogs, impaired brain and neurological functions, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset (Type ll) diabetes, obesity, resistance to chemotherapy, increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, infertility and metabolic disorders. Added with its very low recycle rate quality, PC is to be avoided at all cost.
Some people may worry about the safety of these packaged water bottles in terms of Cancer risk and look for a good numbers or resin code. The good numbers or resin code to look for are 1, 2, 4 and 5. It is necessary to make everyone actions count to decrease cancer risk. Storing food should ideally be done using a glass container for optimal safety. Also it must be sure to use only a mild detergent while washing plastic containers as harsh detergents can break down the material and cause chemicals to leach into our food later.
Plastic not only produces different types of pollution it also worsen climate change, environmental degradation to health hazards in living organisms in various forms. The world produces around 380 million tonnes of new plastic every year. New scientific studies have shown that plastic is responsible for almost 4% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions helping to increase Earth’s temperature.
Every household, hospital, institutions, food packaging industries, almost everywhere used plastic products in many useful ways. While we cannot entirely reduce the risk of cancer knowing which plastic to use and which to avoid and substitute with possible biodegradable and eco-friendly materials can help in protecting our health, environment and make a safe and cleaner earth to live.
News Anchor at Mami TV, and student, Department of Mass Communication, Manipur University