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Pollution from Polythene In this age of computers and Internet, Use and Throw culture is the

order of the day. You use anything and after using it, throw it away. Polythene pollution has

drastically disturbed everyman’s life style. Polythene material can be seen spread over in the streets, in

the neighborhood, in the rivulets, river-banks of the small or big rivers. Even Ganga, Yamuna and

other rivers all are covered with a thick layer of polythene material.. Degradation of polyethne is a

great challenge as the materials are increasingly used. Ignorance of the people who don’t care about

the effects of proper waste disposal and who may not know about the effects of improper waste

disposal. They therefore dump the polythene bags carelessly. Emphasis should be put on the use of

paper bags. This is because the paperbags are also light and they can easily decompose, Globalization

has added to this problem in a big way. Electronic gadgets all are designed with a view to use and

throw, because the repairs are costly. In USA and other western countries Garbage disposal problem

has reached a horrifying level. But they have developed a meticulous system of garbage disposal with

periodical review. In India we have to prepare ourselves for this gigantic onslaught of pollution.

Enough is enough! We need to be disciplined and we must cultivate civic sense to save India from this

disaster. In order to fight the menace of Polythene pollution, the Local Self Government institutions

have come up with laws restricting the use of polythene. But the menace of polythene continues

unabated. In fact it is no use thrusting such laws which are not practical. But they do not face such

problems as we face in India. There are strict laws for the disposal of the polythene bags. The

polythene, after use, is dumped at the garbage disposal pots or Trashes. There are different garbage
disposal pots for dumping polythene, paper orother waste material. There is strict enforcement of laws

which provides for punitive measures if garbage is thrown at unspecified places. The citizens comply

with the rules with responsibility. But in India there is no enforcement of law, with the result the entire

road or the Mohalla becomes the Garbage disposal place. We as citizen have a responsibility towards

this burning problem. We should use the polythene material but must throw the same at specified

garbage disposal pots. A vigilant public opinion can only fight the problems arising out of the use of

polythene, for which we all must owe responsibility seriously. Trillions of polythene bags are used

world over every year. They persist on this earth to haunt us and our generations for

centuries.Polythene chokes the drains, the water bodies, pollute the land and poison us slowly but

surely. Even mowed grass cannot escape the polythene menace.Polythene has been recovered from the

rumen of countless cattle and is a major threat to animals also.Polythene pollution is an epidemic

now.Polythene is indestructible. One particle of polythene is further made of many particles. If we

continue to use polythene, the earth would become polluted on an alarming rate.

Polyethylene is a polymer consisting of long chains of the monomer ethylene (IUPAC name ethane).

The recommended scientific name polyethene is systematically derived from the scientific name of the

monomer [1][2]. In certain circumstances it is useful to use a structure-based nomenclature; in such

cases IUPAC recommends poly (methylene) [2] (poly(methanediyl) is an non-preferred alternative [3]

[4]). The difference in names between the two systems is due to the opening up of the monomer's

double bond upon polymerisation.In the polymer industry the name is sometimes shortened to PE in a

manner similar to that by which other polymers like polypropylene and polystyrene are shortened to

PP and PS respectively. In the United Kingdom the polymer is commonly called polythene, although

this is not recognized scientifically. The ethene molecule (known almost universally by its common

name ethylene) C2H4 isCH2=CH2, Two CH2 groups connected by a double bond

Plastic is one of the few new chemical materials which pose environmental problem.

Polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene is largely used in the manufacture of plastics. Synthetic
polymers are easily molded into complex shapes, have high chemical resistance, and are more or less

elastic. Some can be formed into fibers or thin transparent films. These properties have made them

popular in many durable or disposable goods and for packaging materials. These materials have

molecular weight ranging from several thousands to 1,50,000. Excessive molecular size seems to be

mainly responsible for the resistance of these chemicals to biodegradation and their persistence in soil

environment for a long time.

Plastic in the environment is regarded to be more an aesthetic nuisance than a hazard, since

the material is biologically quite inert. The plastic industry in the US alone is $ 50 billion per year and

is obviously a tempting market for biotechnology gical enterprises. Biotechnological processes are

being developed as an alternative to existing route or to get new biodegradable biopolymers. 20% of

solid municipal wastes in US is plastic. Non-degradable plastics accumulate at the rate of 25 million

tonnes per year. According to an estimate more than 100 million tonnes of plastic is produced every

year all over the world. In India it is only 2 million tonnes. In

India use of plastic is 2 kg per person per year while in European countries it
is 60 kg per person per year while that in US it is 80 kg per person per year.

India use of plastic is 2 kg per person per year while in European countries it
is 60 kg per person per year while that in US it is 80 kg per person per year.


Polyethylene was first synthesized by the German chemist Hans von Pechmann who prepared

it by accident in 1898 while heating diazomethane. When his colleagues Eugen Bamberger and
Friedrich Tschirner characterized the white, waxy, substance that he had created they recognized that

it contained long -CH2- chains and termed it polymethylene.The first industrially practical

polyethylene synthesis was discovered (again by accident) in 1933 by Eric Fawcett and Reginald

Gibson at the ICI works in Northwich, England.[5] Upon applying extremely high pressure (several

hundred atmospheres) to a mixture of ethylene and benzaldehyde they again produced a white, waxy,

material. Because the reaction had been initiated by trace oxygen contamination in their apparatus the

experiment was, at first, difficult to reproduce. It was not until 1935 that another ICI chemist, Michael

Perrin,developed this accident into a reproducible high-

pressure synthesis for polyethylene that became the basis for industrial LDPE production beginning in

1939.Subsequent landmarks in polyethylene synthesis have revolved around the development of

several types of catalyst that promote ethylene polymerization at more mild temperatures and

pressures. The first of these was a chromium trioxide-based catalyst discovered in 1951 by Robert

Banks and J. Paul Hogan at Phillips Petroleum. In 1953 the German chemist Karl Ziegler developed a

catalytic system based on titanium halides and organoaluminium compounds that worked at even

milder conditions than the Phillips catalyst. The Phillips catalyst is less expensive and easier to work

with, however, and both methods are used in industrial practice.Biodegradable plastics are plastics

that will decompose in natural aerobic (composting) and anaerobic (landfill) environments.

Biodegradation of plasticscan be achieved by enabling microorganisms in the environment to

metabolize themolecular structure of plastic films to produce an inert humus-like material that is less

harmful to the environment. They may be composed of either bioplastics,which are plastics whose

components are derived from renewable raw materials, or petroleum-based plastics which utilize an
additive. The use of bio-active compounds compounded with swelling agents ensures that, when

combined with heat and moisture, they expand the plastic's molecular structure and allow the bio-

active compounds to metabolizes and neutralize the plastic.Biodegradable plastics typically are

produced in two forms: injection molded (solid, 3D shapes), typically in the form of disposable

food service items, and films, typically sold as collection

bags for leaves and grass trimmings, and agricultural mulch.


Plastics are used because they are easy and cheap to make and they can last a long time.

Unfortunately these same useful qualities can make plastic a huge pollution problem. Because the

plastic is cheap it gets discarded easily and its persistence in the environment can do great harm.

Urbanization has added to the plastic pollution in concentrated form in cities. Plastic thrown on land

can enter into drainage lines and chokes them resulting into floods in local areas in cities as

experienced in Mumbai, India in 1998. It was claimed in one of the programmes on TV Channel that

eating plastic bags results in death of 100 cattles per day in U.P. in India. In

stomach of one dead cow, as much as 35 kg of plastic was found. Because plastic does not

decompose, and requires high energy ultra-violet light to break down, the amount of plastic waste in

our oceans is steadily increasing. More than 90% of the articles found on the sea beaches contained

plastic. The plastic rubbish found on beaches near urban areas tends to originate from use on land,

such as packaging materials used to wrap around other goods, remote rural beaches the rubbish tends

to have come from ships, such as fishing equipment used in the fishing industry. This plastic can
affect marine wildlife in two important ways: by entangling creatures, and by being eaten. Turtles are

particularly badly affected by plastic pollution, and all seven of the world's turtle species are already

either endangered or threatened for a number of reasons. Turtles get entangled in fishing nets, and

many sea turtles have been found dead with plastic bags in their stomachs. Turtles mistake floating

transparent plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. In one dead turtle found off Hawaii in the Pacific

more than 1000 pieces of plastic were found in the stomach. A recent US report concluded that more

than 100000 marine mammals die each year in the world's oceans by eating or becoming entangled in

plastic rubbish, and the position is worsening World-wide, 75 marine bird species are known to eat

plastic articles. This includes 36 species found off South Africa. A recent study of blue petrel chicks at

South Africa's remote Marion Island showed that 90% of chicks examined had plastic in their

stomachs apparently fed to them accidentally by their parents. South African seabirds are among the

worst affected in the world. Plastics may remain in the stomachs, blocking

digestion and possibly causing starvation.


Industrial practices in plastic manufacture can lead to polluting effluents and the use of toxic

intermediates, the exposure to which can be hazardous. Better industrial practices have led to

minimizing exposure of plant workers to harmful fumes; for example, there have been problems in the

past resulting from workers being exposed to toxic vinyl chloride vapor during the production of

polyvinyl chloride. Much progress has been made in developing "green processes" that avoid the use

of detrimental substances. For example, phosgene, a toxic "war gas," was formerly used in the

manufacture of polycarbonates. New processes, now almost universally employed, eliminate its use.
Also, the "just in time" approach to manufacture has been made possible by computer-controlled

processes, whereby no significant amounts of intermediates are stored, but just generated as needed. In

addition, efforts are ongoing to employ "friendly" processes involving enzyme-catalyzed low-

temperature methods akin to biological reactions to replace more polluting high-temperature processes

involving operations like distillation. Spillage of plastic pellets that find their way into sewage

systems, and eventually to the sea, has hurt wildlife that may mistake the pellets for food. Better

"housekeeping" of plastic molding facilities is being enforced in an attempt to address this problem.

Most plastics are relatively inert biologically, and they have been employed in medical devices such

as prosthetics, artery replacements, and "soft" and interocular lenses. Problems with their use largely

result from the presence of trace amounts of nonplastic components such as monomers and

plasticizers. This has led to restrictions on the use of some plastics for food applications, but improved

technology has led to a reduction in the content of such undesirable components. For example, the use

of polyacrylonitrile for beverage bottles was banned at one time because the traces of its monomer,

acrylonitrile, were a possible carcinogen. However, current practices render it acceptable today. There

has been concern about endocrine disruption from phthalate-containing plasticizers used for plastics

such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The subject of this possible side effect is controversial,
Post-Consumer Plastic Waste, 2000 (Adapted from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.)


People are exposed to these chemicals not only during manufacturing, but also by using plastic

packages, because some chemicals migrate from the plastic packaging to the foods they contain. Examples

of plastics contaminating food have been reported with most plastic types, including Styrene

from polystyrene,

plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and Acetaldehyde from PET.

Among the factors controlling migration are the chemical structure of the migrants and the nature

of the packaged food. In studies cited in Food Additives and Contaminants, LDPE, HDPE, and

polypropylene bottles released measurable levels of BHT, Chimassorb 81, Irganox PS 800, Irganix 1076,

and Irganox 1010 into their contents of vegetable oil and ethanol. Evidence was also found that

acetaldehyde migrated out of PET and into water.

Find alternatives to plastic products whenever possible. Some specific


* Buy food in glass or metal containers; avoid polycarbonate drinking bottles

with Bisphenol A

* Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic

containers or plastic wrap.

* Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys

* Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture

* Avoid all PVC and Styrene products

Buy food in glass or metal containers

Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic
containers or plastic wrap

Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys

Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture

Avoid all PVC and Styrene products