Burning Plastic has been used by many around the world as an easy way to reduce the large piles of waste in open fields. With strong scientific evidence and numerous awareness initiative to show the hazards of burning plastic, many still resort to burning it rather than recycling it.
Hazards of burning plastic are not limited to just air pollution, but it affects everything in the surrounding areas and underground.
Here are 5 severe hazards of Burning Plastic
1. Releases toxic emissions into the air
Plastic is made of complex polymers which gives it its structural sturdiness and rigidity. When burnt, these toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere – hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans, and heavy metals, and more, which have been found to have a direct impact on climate change.
Awaaz Foundation observed that the amount of particulate matter (PM) emissions across these dumpsites are alarmingly high due to the burning of waste.
Did you know? A landfill in Jaipur burnt for over 26 days during the pandemic lockdown, causing severe environmental pollution, and imagine the amount of PM in the atmosphere!
Not just open field burning, incinerating plastic in machines releases toxic gases including carbon dioxide. which is a harmful greenhouse gas. In the US alone, more than 6 million tons of carbon dioxide was released in 2016, from incinerating plastic waste.
2. Toxic emissions cause severe respiratory illnesses
The waste is burnt in a large open field by local workers, who are directly exposed to the toxic gases, develop the risk of heart disease, asthma, and emphysema, and cause rashes, nausea, or headaches, damages in the nervous system, kidney, or liver, in the reproductive and development system.
3. Pollutes the soil and water
With the emission of toxic substances, the burning leaves behind a residue which highly toxic and often end up in the surrounding soil or waterways. To be precise the Dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), furans and others last for very long in the environment and tend to travel through the food chain – causing severe health illnesses in humans and animals.
4. Loss of valuable resources
A ton of plastic if recycled saves 5,774 Kwh of energy, which is enough to power 30 houses for a month, and 16.3 barrels of oil, enough to fuel your car for an entire year! The resources are saved when the plastic is recycled instead of burning which greatly reduces the stress on natural resources, which is a growing issue in our current times.
5. Plastic burning directly contributes to climate change
With scientific evidence to back this claim, the pollutants released from burning plastic are greenhouse gases that have the ability to increase atmospheric temperatures and also play a role in the degradation of the ozone layer. The furans and dioxins have a damaging effect on our atmosphere, which in turn affect marine life, human health, economic activities like farming and more.
What can you do?
- Do not burn plastic waste
- Segregate your plastics
- Reduce the amount of waste being produced
- Reuse or Up-cycle your plastic bottles or containers
- Recycle – the most important and easy action one can take
Recovery of energy from waste and Disposal to a landfill must be the least preferred option since the former method of the recovery are yet to be advanced enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What is being done?
Organisations and NGOs are working tirelessly to educate kabadiwalas, ragpickers, and other members of the informal sector, along with the general consumer who generates plastic waste on alternative ways to manage the rising piles.
Authorities and organisations like Recykal are working towards creating a channel of waste using digital platforms and an on-field network of recyclers, which will help direct the waste from your bin to a recycler rather than to a landfill where it will be burnt!