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
||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
||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,
Think again before you say plastics is environmental unfriendly!