Plastic, earlier known as parkesina, was discovered in 1856 by British Chemist Alexander Parkes. It was manufactured as an inexpensive alternative to ivory. Plastic was very light and stable chemically. Plastic could be easily moulded and has good insulation, and low thermal conductivity and the best part was that it did not rust. Due to its various properties, it started getting made widely. Due to its economic point, plastic started replacing many materials and used in almost every sector, including packaging, building material, consumer things, textiles, machinery, and transportation.
The same properties which made plastic extremely stable also made it extremely difficult to dispose of. And that is when it was realized that it probably is not the best invention in the history of humans. The disposal and degradation become an environmental hazard as the breakdown of plastic pollutes oceans, air and the whole of our ecosystem. Microplastic has reached all corners of the globe through water bodies and has catastrophically affected the oceans and aquatic bodies. Millions of animals get killed by plastic by entanglement and starvation.
The solution to most of these problems is to reduce and control the use of plastic. There have been a lot of movements and bans on plastic. It is really difficult and next to impossible to quit the usage of plastic as it is so widely used, but there are alternatives present. We should not let plastic enter our water bodies in the first place as once it breaks down and scatters, it is impossible to recover.
Talking about the alternatives to plastic, there are some places where we cannot avoid plastic usage, but we have better and eco-friendly substitutes. It is challenging to find substitutes in this plastic filled world. These things can seem a little heavy on the pocket at first if compared to plastic, but they are reusable and, for the most part, better for the world.
- Grocery bags: A tote bag can be easily used as a replacement for carrying numerous plastic bags.
- Silicon bags: Plastic bags are used a single time and thrown for most parts. Silicone bags can be used for carrying fruits and veggies.
- Bagasse: due to its extreme malleability and capacity to be moulded, this product of sugarcane can be used for food packaging, and it’s very rigid and sturdy
- Stainless steel straws: Plastic straws are historical and used extensively. A healthier option is to use no straw or shift to aesthetic-looking stainless steel straws and bamboo straws that are all over the market with your pretty mason jars.
- Clay bottles: Clay bottles are reusable and can keep the water rather cool for much longer.
- Glasswares: Glass is not biodegradable, but for the most part, it is reusable and cheap
- Menstrual cups: Sanitary pads are made up of plastic mostly, and their disposal can take over 800 years. Incineration is proposed, but it gives life to another kind of pollution. Usage of cotton pads and menstrual cups are much more sustainable.
- Earthen cookware: Teflon coated utensils can cause health risks by releasing toxins in the environment and the food. Using steelwares and earthen pots are beneficial as the food prepared gets rich in aroma and is hotter for longer.
- Bamboo toothbrushes: Plastic toothbrushes are the second-largest plastic waste generated after plastic bags. Even the bristles are made up of petroleum based plastic which does not degrade for years. Using bamboo might seem like a tiny change, but the statistics show that it can make all the difference.
There are many inventions made every day to have substitutes for plastic. Bioplastic is another term that sounds promising, and they are biodegradable. The idea is to use vegetable oils and starches to make the plastic so that petroleum consumption is reduced. Even if you throw the bioplastic in water, marine life can eat it. Edible cutlery and compostable trash bags are some real game-changers. A startup in the United Kingdom has invented an edible seaweed water bubble to quench to replace water bottles. It is a long war against plastic, and we can make some small changes to alter this whole plastic oriented life.
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