Plastic Pollution- Class 12 | Chapter – 16 | Biology Short Notes Series PDF

Plastic Pollution: Plastic pollution refers to the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment, particularly in the oceans and seas, that negatively impacts wildlife, marine life, and human health. It is a global issue that affects all continents, including remote areas. Plastic pollution is caused by the production and disposal of single-use and non-biodegradable plastic products, such as bags, bottles, and packaging materials. Improper waste management and littering also contribute to plastic pollution. 

Structure of Plastic

The structure of plastic depends on the type of plastic, but in general, it is a long chain of polymers made up of repeating monomer units. The monomers are chemically bonded to each other to form a three-dimensional network. The properties of the plastic, such as its strength, flexibility, and melting temperature, are determined by the type of monomers used and the way they are chemically bonded. Some common types of plastic include polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Types of Plastics

There are many different types of plastic, but they can be broadly classified into seven main categories based on their chemical structure:

  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Polystyrene (PS)
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

Causes of Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is caused by various factors, including:

  • Littering: This is one of the major causes of plastic pollution, as people often dispose of plastic waste in the environment, rather than properly disposing of it in a trash can or recycling bin.
  • Improper waste management: When waste management systems are inadequate, plastic waste may end up in the environment instead of being properly disposed of.
  • Misuse of single-use plastics: Single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic bags, and water bottles, are commonly used and often discarded after just one use, leading to a large amount of plastic waste in the environment.
  • Improper disposal of plastic waste: When plastic waste is not properly disposed of, it can end up in the ocean and harm marine life.
  • Industrial discharge: Some industries release plastic waste into the environment through their discharge pipes, contributing to plastic pollution.
  • Natural disasters: Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods, can cause plastic waste to be washed into the ocean, further exacerbating plastic pollution.

Effects of Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution has a range of negative impacts on the environment, wildlife, and human health, including:

  • Marine pollution: Plastic waste in the ocean harms marine wildlife, such as sea turtles, birds, and fish, which can become entangled in plastic or mistake it for food, leading to injury or death.
  • Land pollution: Plastic waste on land can cause harm to wildlife, such as birds and small mammals, that may become entangled or ingest plastic.
  • Microplastics: Microplastics, which are small plastic particles less than 5 mm in size, can enter the food chain and potentially harm wildlife and humans.
  • Soil contamination: Plastic waste in the soil can harm plant growth and reduce the fertility of the soil.
  • Human health effects: Plastic pollution can also have direct and indirect impacts on human health. Direct impacts may include skin irritation and injury from contact with plastic waste. Indirect impacts may include the release of toxic chemicals from plastic into the environment, which can then enter the food chain and potentially harm human health.
  • Climate change: Plastic production and disposal contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to climate change.

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By Team Learning Mantras