Undeniably, plastic is one of the most notable inventions of human history, and it has become one of the most favored materials in the world, thanks to its usefulness, convenience, as well as its low-cost production. However, with its sustainability and durability in nature, plastic waste has a negative impact on the environment and human health, becoming a significant challenge for the community and society nowadays. Each year, more than 14 billion pounds of garbage is dumped into the world’s ocean, and most of it is plastic that is toxic to marine life (Petr).
At the current pace of plastic use, 28.7 billion tons of plastics resins would be produced, and 13.2 billion tons of plastic would be discarded in landfills or the environment by 2050 (Greene). These numbers are so worrying and need the attention of everyone. They are as an alarm to wake up human to recognize what exactly situation the environment is fallen in by the disastrous consequences of plastic. Also, they impetus human to think of the possible solutions that would help prevent the environment from sinking deeper into the pollution which is creating by the human. Well, recycling is a solution people are conducting, but should we continue to promote recycling plastic as an environmental solution?
Some proponents the continuing plastic recycling mention that recycling will help save energy and save many landfills. In the article, ‘Why Recycle Plastics?” Larry West states that recycling plastic items reduces plastic pollution by keeping them out of landfills and open a new road for plastic to be reused. He gives out a fact that is one tone of plastic recycled is corresponding to saving 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space. Another author, Rutan Poly, is in the position of a manufacturer producing the polyethylene bag. He has written the “The Benefits of Recycling Plastics Bags’ article to discuss why recycling plastic needs to promote. According to Poly, the recycling of plastics bags help encourage people to use plastic in a vigilant and viable way.
80% of Americans have participated in recycling programs (Poly). Also, recycling is one of the most critical elements in helping to reduce the amount of energy usage. Recycling plastic bags uses energy less than what it takes to make the fresh plastic bags. One ton of plastic bags recycled is equivalent to saving 5,774 kilowatts electric power per hour and saving 16.3 barrels crude oil. In the same thought to Poly, my friend, Tien, believes that we can save the sources that we invest in creating a new plastic product from recycling.
The two authors and my friend are in three different positions toward recycling issue, but they all advocate recycling and give the good points about it. While Larry West focuses more on how recycling help saves the environment in general and the landfills in particular, Rutan Poly highlights more about how recycling helps saving natural resources and energy, and enhances human conscious after using plastic items. They created in me a new look at the recycling and its benefits bringing to the natural resources as well as the environment.
Some also argue that recycling plastic will create more jobs for citizens and bring the growth economy. The article, “How Recycling Plastic Helps the Economy” on the website of the Birch Plastics Inc., refers that recycling offers a boost in the economy by providing thousands of jobs and saving costs on manufacturing new products. In the time we trash 10,000 tons of plastic wastes, we create six jobs; however, if we recycle the same amount of waste, we would generate more 36 jobs. It is because the recycling industry desires roles ranging from items sorters to chemists and innovation.
So it will sufficiently makeup recycled materials as good as the product have never used yet. Besides, while investing additional income to those corporations that were wrecking the broken or scrap plastics, many plastics manufacturers fund a lower amount of money into reuse plastic items industries. Thenceforth, it helps in reducing the costs of producing more raw plastics.
The author of this article explores a new aspect of plastic recycling benefit that goes beyond the scope of the environment. He emphasizes the importance of plastic recycling on growth economy and compares the number of jobs created between by trashing and by recycling. The economy of an individual or a whole nation is equally important. So when recycling plastic brings the economic benefits, then obviously, the economists, manufacturers, and the unemployed people would most likely want to promote plastic recycling. From there, this article helped me discover the new positive point of recycling plastic and understand more why it is difficult to stop recycling.
Oppositely, those who do not support recycling plastic discuss the disadvantages of recycling and its effect on the environment base on that disadvantages. Dr. Liji Thomas, who is the author of “Alternatives to Plastic” article, talks about the problems with plastic. According to her, many plastics comes from oil which is harmful to the environment, and very little of plastics can be recycled. “Each year in the United States, proximately seven billion tons of polyvinyl chloride plastic is used, but only a quarter of a percent of this is recycled” (Thomas). Consequently, plastic waste is piling up at an alarming rate. And this waste plastic usually drains toxic chemicals into the surrounding water source, where it can induce outspread disease and death in the surrounding creatures. Also, the processes related to producing plastic from natural gas and oil emit tons of harmful chemical into our ecosystem every day.
Similarity, in the ‘The Disadvantages of Recycled Plastics’ article, Dennis Hartman states that the process of melting down and recycling plastic produces volatile organic compounds that can damage plant and animal life around the industrial site. The heat required to melt plastic also provoke large amount of carbon emissions, which contribute to global warming. One of my coworkers believes that when we do recycling, it is like we promote to people using plastic indifferently without caring to the environment because they will think that the recycling factories are there to take care of it. And also, the recycling process will produce toxic gas into the air, causing air pollution and acid rain which damages to plants.
The opinions and information from Dr. Liji Thomas, Dennis Hartman, and my coworker helped me realize that besides the benefits plastic recycling bring to the environment, somehow it still has some adverse effects on the environment in other ways. The points they mention in their article are totally reverse to the points mentioned by proponents.
Along with mentioning the negative effects of recycling plastic on the environment, some opponents the continuing recycling plastic list out the adverse health effects of substances in plastic to the human health. The Ecology Center posts the article, ‘Adverse Health Effects Of Plastics,’ to explain about the range of side effects of substances in the plastics. It indicates that people contact to the chemicals contained in plastics not only in the time manufacturing, but also by using plastic packages, because some chemicals, including polystyrene, Polyvinyl Chloride, and polyethylene, shift from the plastics packaging to the food they contain, causing them to be contaminated. And as people consume those contaminated foods, they can get a range of health problems.
For example, if they expose to Polyvinyl Chloride, it can lead to ‘cancer, congenital disabilities, genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction’ (Ecology Center). Likewise, my high school teacher conceives that the substances in plastics mixing can create the toxic substance that is harmful to health, causing cancer, fetal malformations, and many things else.
Through all of the articles and the views of my social circle, I believe that the proponents continuing recycling plastic are right in the aspects of the benefits that the recycling brings to the economy, the natural resources, environment, and human demand. However, the information from the opponent side of recycling plastic makes me think that when considering about the benefits of recycling plastics, proponents might forget about one crucial thing which is our planet is put in a dangerous situation if we keep producing and recycling plastic. Well, as Larry West said, recycling helps reduce a large amount of plastic immediately, but I believe that it is a short-term solution and should not be prolonged forever because of its harmful effects as well as toxic substances enclosed in plastics mentioned in the article of Ecology Center.
I believe if we keep recycling plastic, plastics will keep presenting on the earth, the environment and human would continue to deal with plastic pollution and get severe effects from it. I wonder how ones can live if one day there is no more fresh air to breathe, no more clean water to drink, no more healthy foods to eat. Is that what ones want to happen to them and their later generations in the future? Have they ever considered about the human future lives while placing their demand and the economy benefits above all over everything, even destroying the earth? Indeed, they are not only putting the planet but also themselves and their later generations into that dangerous situation.
In brief, from the information and the perspective of the proponents recycling plastic, I realize that it is hard to stop producing and recycling plastic immediately because it might cause damage to the economy and human lives. But because of its adverse effects on the environment and human health mentioned by opponents, I think that instead of promoting to continue producing and recycling plastic, people could promote to produce and use substituting items that cause no harm to the environment but still keep its convenience. By this way, we can get rid of plastic gradually time by time; as a result, we can save our planet from plastic pollution as well as please to the one who is favoring in using plastics and who wants to boost the growth economy. Indeed, not thing is more important than the green environment. As Margaret Mead says, ‘We don’t have a society if we destroy the environment’ (Mead).