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Technology Provides a Solution To Pace Down Plastic Pollution It is wise to start recycling, upcycling or shifting to more sustainable solutions in place of plastic, educating people and helping them understand the need for such a shift

By Dr. Vibha Tripathi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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With the increasing pace of industrialization and consumerism, plastic has become a massive part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, this increase in plastic consumption has become a major cause of alarmingly growing pollution around us. Everything around us uses some form of plastic, right from the product packaging to bottles for drinking water. Plastics have non-degradable and toxic components, which possess the capacity to irreparably harm the environment. When collected in an area over the limit, it harms plants, human life, and even the wildlife around. As per a report from Biological Diversity, if plastic deposition continues at the current rate, it will outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.

But with time, technology has offered better ways to help slow down plastic pollution. Let's read ahead to understand the leading causes of plastic pollution and how technology can keep a check on it.

Major causes of plastic pollution

Plastic has emerged as one of the most used materials for packaging, transport, and storing as it is durable, lightweight, easy to transport, and leak proof option. But one can now notice various new issues with the increasing use of plastic. According to Plastic Oceans, over 380 million tonne of plastic production occur yearly, and more than 50 per cent is for single-use only. Additionally, it takes quite a long time for it to decompose. As reported by Plastic Oceans, less than 9 per cent of plastic goes to recycling. Based on such statistics, the main causes of pollution identified are as follows:

Single use plastic: Most of the plastic that we use today is single-use. Products like plastic bags, trays, bottles, food packaging, and others are usually used once before disposal. Such plastic options fill the landfills and trash dumps that are hard to decompose or recycle.

Over usage of plastic: Rapid industrialisation and urbanisation have increased the demand for cheap and inexpensive plastic for consumers as it is very affordable. This led to the use of plastic for everything, right from carry bags to bottles and straws.

Ignorance to recycling: A lot of plastic can go for recycling or upcycling, reducing the demand for unwanted plastic production. Even though people have started to recycle plastic, the rate is relatively low. As a result, it will take over 400 years for plastic to decompose.

Commercial production: Plastic is prominently used to manufacture most equipment and fishing nets. They usually have a limited life cycle, after which people discard them. Parts of these, primarily nets, accumulate in the ocean bed for quite a long time. Such debris continues to leak toxic content, which causes water pollution and other problems.

How can technology help reduce plastic pollution?

The first step towards preventing plastic pollution begins with changing our mind-set. Shifting to eco-friendly products that replace plastic (cotton/jute bags) or recycling and upcycling is helpful. One can also shift from plastic water bottles to steel or glass bottles to reduce plastic use. While these are just basic solutions, below are a few technology-based solutions.

A sustainable hydration solution is another important step. Using sustainable solutions to get water is one of the key advantages offered by technology to stop or reduce plastic pollution. These solutions may use AI and IoT to coordinate better and analyse plastic remediation and use.

One interesting breakthrough which may accelerate in the near future is biodegradable plastics. Various researchers, with the help of the latest technologies, are in the process of developing biodegradable plastic. For starters, it will be nice to go for reusable bags that are biodegradable. Additionally, edible cutleries available in the market are a suitable replacement for plastic cutleries. These use natural products and cause no harm to humans and the environment.

The bottom line

Plastic poses various threats to the environment. Therefore, it is wise to start recycling, upcycling, or shifting to more sustainable solutions in place of plastic, educating people and helping them understand the need for such a shift. Encouraging the development and use of products that are substitutes for plastic is equally essential. After all, it's the duty of all individuals to adopt better practices to slow down the pace of plastic pollution.

Dr. Vibha Tripathi

Founder, Boon

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