What are Single Use Plastics?
Single-use plastics often referred to as disposable plastics are items intended to be used only once before being thrown away or recycled. These items include plastic bottles, grocery bags, straws, food packaging, cutlery, etc. The list is endless.
Most plastics do not biodegrade instead they photo-degrade. That is, due to sunlight exposure, plastics slowly breakdown into small fragments known as microplastics. In the process of breaking down, it leaches out toxic chemicals used in the production of the plastic to the environment thereby contaminating the soil and ground water.
According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP,2018), 79% of plastic waste produced ends up in landfills, dumpsites or the natural environment while about 12% are incinerated and only 9% is being recycled.
In the name of convenience and low cost production, Single-use plastics have become an intricate part of most people’s lifestyle. We wear it, work with it, eat and drink from it. Although, there are legitimate uses of Single-use plastics. For example, single-use plastic products that controls contamination and infection are crucial in the medical industry. Products such as gloves made from plastic, plastic syringes, applicators, plastic vial, bandages and wraps. Single-use plastics are also used to package food and water but this is unnecessary in most settings.
This is no news that Single-use plastic are a major source of pollution. Stranded Single-use plastics create visual pollution at an alarming rate. For instance, a stroll down major cities in Nigeria reveals the effect of single-use plastic sachet water on the environment.
The most effective mitigation strategy is to recycle or convert into energy single-use plastics. These items can continue to make positive impact in our lives, extending their value beyond a single use. Development and promotion of eco-friendly alternatives would phase out single-use plastics progressively. Also, social awareness and education are essential to shape and encourage changes in consumer behavior. Responsible use and minimization of plastic waste generated should be encouraged. Individual efforts are important but not enough. Everyone is a stakeholder in our planet matters.