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Green Living

When we hear the term green living many of us think and visualise the outdoors - trees, mountains, and lush green lawns. In fact, one can start living green indoors itself, by choosing recycled products, finding new and creative uses for old items and cutting back on our use of natural resources. Green living is best defined as protecting the environment, by conserving and effectively using resources.

Environmental concerns have assumed larger significance in the modern day living and economic development. It is in this context, I would like to share my thoughts by taking a glimpse at some facts about how and why proper and effective use of plastics can help each one of us, our businesses and our families live greener and leave less of an impact on the Earth.

Plastics contribute to our health, safety and peace of mind in endless ways. The material possess an incredible history, consisting of a long line of innovation, giving birth to many uses of plastics as an environmentally friendly material.

If we are serious about conserving resources, we must look at a product's entire life, from development to disposal. In this context, plastics often compare favorably and even outperform other materials . When, the topic of  resourcesconservation and plastics comes up, many focus solely on recycling. But, recycling is only a part of the entire story. Conserving resource means using less raw materials and energy throughout a product's entire life - from its development and manufacturer, to its use, possible reuse or recovery - including recycling - and disposal.

Plastics' unique characteristics - lightweight, durability, formability enables the manufacturers to minimise the raw materials used, energy consumed and the waste generated in the production. It also facilitates distribution of goods which range from coffee cups to automobiles and conserves more resources during a product's life span, when compared to the other materials.

Let us just take a brief  look at a few reasons and examples of how and why plastics contribute to waste reduction and its role in preserving the environment:

Plastics are strong and durable and yet lightweight. Meaning, it often requires less plastics to make a certain package as compared to other possible materials like paper etc.
Plastic film wrappers now used for large diaper packs create 50% less waste by volume than previous packages
Studies reveal that, over 4 million students a day in United States drink their milk or juice in fexible milk drink pouches. Compared to traditional cartons, the source-reduced pouch reduces weight by 80% and volume by 70%, which reduces storage and trash disposal costs by schools.
Plastic grocery bags are lighter and create up to 80% less waste by volume that paper sacks. Normal economic market forces cause manufacturers to continually look for ways to reduce the cost of their packages by minimising the amount of material used.
Plastics have an increased life span. Their physical properties allow them to be used in multiple applications, while their durability and flexibility allow them to be used again and again. For example, in the international markets, some laundry products are being packaged in reusable plastic bottles. Small packages of concentrated product are used to refill the orginial bottles, helping to reduce total packaging waste.
Plastics generally exhibit superior resistance to breakage and denting. This results in fewer container breaces and less product loss on the packaging line, and safer handling at home. Manufacturers of durable goods choose plastics for many reasons.
Plastics allow highly efficient manufacturing processes (up to 99% efficiency) that increase productivity by 20 - 30% and reduce capital expenditures by as much as 50% and,
Without plastics' resistance to corrosion, the product life of some major appliances would be reduced by nearly 40%. By helping them last longer, plastics keep appliances and other durable goods out of the waste stream.
Plastics for the most parts are derived from petroleum and natural gas and have heating values measured in British thermal units (Btus), competitive with coal and heating oil and more superior to wood, paper and other biomass fuels. Because of their high heating value, the residual plastics in municipal solid waste can provide an excellent fuel for modern waste-to-energy conversion plants.
Recovery is a process of obtaining material or energy resources from solid waste. Recovered plastics can be recycle into new products or used in process engineered fuels, as done internationally, where collected plastics are processed with the paper into fuel pellets and then used in consumption with coal and other fuels in industrial boilers and utility plants.
Without plastics, 400% more material by weight and 200% more material by volume would be needed to make packaging, while the volume of packaging would be more than double. For every 7 trucks needed to deliver paper grocery bags, only 1 truck is needed to carry the same number of plastic grocery bags.
Plastic Lumber provides a worry free, eco-friendly, quality alternative to wood. Unlike wood, it does not rot, crack, wrap, splinter, contain hazardous chemicals, leak or contaminate the soil. In fact, it is denser than wood, virtually maintenance free, long lasting (50 years plus - depending on the application), stain resistant, graffiti proof, UV resistant, aesthetically pleasing, impervious to insects and is not affected by exposure to most substances. Not only that, plastics lumber also works with any deck fastener, requires no painting or sealing, can be available in any colour effects and can be painted too, provides a good shock absorbing surface for pedestrian traffic and last but not the least - it is the most economically viable alternative to traditional hardwood lumber.

Littering, illegal dumping, improper waste management - all add up to the burdensome issues which can negatively affect economic and social development of a country. Whether it is plastic, paper or any other type of product that is being improperly disposed off, it is not the product which is at issue, but the rather the human behavior behind the tossing of the trash that needs to be addressed. This is possible by understanding the proper use and reuse of solid waste by applying segragation at source', adopting bin culture and systematic waste collection and then high quality of recycled material, to generate best from waste.

Serious worries about deforestation and the role trees play in helping prevent global warning are issues of concern for one and all. Therefore, by seriously embracing practical and systematic solutions to waste disposal habits, let us all strive towards living a greener life, right here, right now!

* Contributed by Mr. Mohan K. Jain, President, AIPMA.

Date:- 6th July, 2002.

Think again before you say plastics is environmental unfriendly!

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