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Opinion | Jan 22, 2018

Plastic Bottle Wastes Fast Outstripping Global Warming And Illegal Mining As A Threat To Our Planet And Its Inhabitants 

By Charles Biney
File Photo
File Photo

Few decades ago, when Accra was littered with plastic water sachets, I surmised it was just a matter of time that they find their way to gutters, waterways and the sea, creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and causing needless flooding.

But for my unqualified believe in the Bible, based on what I know now, I would have stated incontrovertibly, that human beings would destroy this world before Christ returns. From where I sit, I can say without a shred of doubt, that the harm being done to our environment, and to human, animal and plant life is worse than that being done by illegal mining and criminal disposal of toxic wastes.

My perspectives have been shaped by a clip I saw of Bertrand Piccard, the pilot of Solar Impulse while flying over the great Pacific Garbage Patch. " I personally saw the horrific amount of plastics in our ocean," he said. "I flew over plastic waste as big as a continent," Picard added.

As a biochemist, I became very alarmed because of my knowledge of polymer chemistry. Naturally, I started researching about the impact of plastic wastes on the environment, and my discoveries were startling! Water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate ( PET ) plastics. PETs though recyclable, don't biodegrade, but rather phytodegrade, breaking down into small fragments over time. These fragments absorb toxins that pollute our water bodies, the environment, and infest the flora and fauna of the ocean, thereby getting into the food chain. There is no gainsaying the fact that those plastic water bottles we thoughtlessly discard after drinking its contents are profoundly damaging our environment; the seas, lagoons and rivers are seriously being polluted. Depending on the type of plastic, the average time for a plastic bottle to completely degrade is between 500 and 1000 years - an eternity!

According to the consumer market research company, Euromonitor International, 1 million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world, with the annual consumption of plastic bottles set to top half a trillion by 2021. The report notes 480 billion plastic bottles were purchased in 2016 but less than half got recycled, implying most of the waste ended up in oceans and landfills. Ford Magazine painted a gloomier picture, that out of the million plastic bottles sold every minute, 91% are not recycled. What a wow!

More frightening is the study by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation which determined that the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Also, researchers from the Imperial College of London and the Commonwealth Scientific And Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO ) in Australia found out that 99% of seabirds will ingest plastic by the year 2050.

Scientist have proved that plastic resin pellets ( small granular particles ), an industrial raw material for the plastic industry are widely distributed in the ocean all over the world. It's believed to be unintentionally released to the environment both during manufacturing and transport. They are also introduced into the food chain by seabirds and marine organisms that ingest it, with adverse effect on the organisms and potential harm to humans who might eat these marine organisms.

What I find very troubling is the believe that plastic leaches into the water it holds, which have been linked to reproductive disorders and different types of cancer. We are told harmful hormone-disrupting phthalates leach into the bottled water we drink after as little as 10 weeks of storage or much faster once the bottles have been exposed to the sun, especially when left in the car.

Though the list of the negative impact of plastic waste on the environment is inexhaustible, few countries are doing something about it, with the majority doing very little or nothing.

The time to take the bull by the horn and confront this canker is now!

Stay Tuned .
Charles Biney
Dallas, Tx

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