The Risks of Microplastic Pollution - Environment Studies UGC NET

What are microplastics?  

Microplastics are plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, or about the size of a sesame seed. They come from a variety of sources, one of them is when larger pieces of plastic degrade into smaller pieces, which are difficult to detect.  

Why is microplastics pollution especially harmful? 

The durability of plastic, which implies that plastic can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose depending on the type of plastic and where it has been dumped. In the oceans, plastic pollution impacts marine life, ocean health, coastal tourism and even human health.

 Over the past few years, various news reports have shown that marine animals such as whales, seabirds and turtles unknowingly ingest plastic. For humans, too, marine plastic pollution is harmful if it reaches the food chain. For instance, microplastics have been found in tap water, beer and even salt. One of the first studies to estimate plastic pollution in human ingestion that was published in June 2019 said that an average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic each year

Consumption of plastic by humans is harmful since several chemicals that are used to produce plastics can be hazardous. Measures taken by government: India has pledged to ban all single-use plastics by 2022. All offices of central and state governments and major PSUs have been told to prohibit single-use plastic products. India has banned imports of solid plastic waste. India has passed the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 and introduced the Extended Producer Responsibility.  

Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 It aims to increase minimum thickness of plastic carry bags from 40 to 50 microns. Expand the jurisdiction of applicability from the municipal area to rural areas, because plastic has reached rural areas also.  

Extended Producer Responsibility: To bring in the responsibilities of producers and generators, both in plastic waste management system and to introduce collect back system of plastic waste by the producers/brand owners, as per extended producers responsibility Introduced collection of plastic waste management fee through pre-registration of the producers, importers of plastic carry bags/multilayered packaging and vendors selling the same for establishing the waste management system Promote use of plastic waste for road construction as per Indian Road Congress guidelines or energy recovery, or waste to oil etc. for gainful utilization of waste and also address the waste disposal issue. 

Way Forward: The 3R’s +E Strategy: Reduce:  

To efficiently reduce plastic pollution, there is an evident need of reducing our usage of plastic. 

Reuse: Many plastic items can be reused or used for different purposes. Before throwing plastic items, it is important to consider how they can be reused.  

Recycle: Plastic recycling consists of collecting plastic waste and reprocessing it into new products, to reduce the amount of plastic in the waste stream.  

Educate: Another crucial solution is education in order to increase awareness and behavioral change.

Source OR Article By: Toshiba Shukla, Mentor, UGC NET Paper 1


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