What is our limit?

What is our limit?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Plastics and the environment

Just a few days ago, while scrolling through Facebook, i chanced upon a video that caught my attention. You could just watch a few seconds of the video and you'd get the gist of it. [Personally i couldn't watch the entire 8 minute video as it was too cruel and gruesome to watch.]

This video left me speechless - and it also serves as a wake up call to not only me but to the others who have watched this. Plastic pollution is unnecessary and harmful to the environment such as marine creatures, which  also leads to my topic for today: How plastic can actually influence climate change.

Firstly, the reason why plastics is such a popular material today is due to the characteristics that it possesses. Cheap, easy to produce and versatile, plastics also do not allow water to pass through it.
Plastics are very prevalent in our lives today. Think of grocery shopping, our cups, our disposable utensils, our food packaging etcetera. However, few have thought of the implications of plastic usage,  and more specifically how it would affect the environment negatively. 

"An estimated 12 million barrels of oil are used to manufacture the 30 million plastic bags that Americans use each year." Plastic bags are mostly made up of polyethylene, a byproduct of petroleum and natural gas.  Moreover, when decomposition of plastics take place, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere, 

Hence, there are various sources of harmful emissions to the environment from the production of plastics; the manufacture of it, the transportation of the goods (oil/gas/plastics) from one place to another as well as the gas emitted when it is decomposing.  This would ultimately lead to excessive (hence unwanted) greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which results in climate change and over-heating of Earth.

Of course, plastics lead to much more environmental problems that go beyond climate change which i won't be covering in this post. 

I hope that gradually, people will start seeing the importance of cutting down our usage on plastics.

A good policy that i think can be implemented in Singapore is to charge consumers whenever they need to get a plastic bag from business owners. This would increase people's incentive to bring their own reusable bags when they go shopping.

An example of a country which has implemented this policy is Hong Kong, and based on my experience with my friends and family members who were there with me, this policy actually reduces people's willingness to get a plastic bags as they do not want to spend extra on it. In economics terms, marginal benefit of obtaining a plastic is less than the marginal cost. Hence, consumers will think twice before obtaining a plastic bag from business owners and is likely to cut down plastic usage. For Singaporeans who take plastic bags for granted (since there has not been any obvious policies or implementations that discourage Singaporeans from excessive usage of plastic bags), it would actually act as a wake-up call for the public and prompt them to care for the environment through money incentives.

But before any campaign or policy is implemented to reduce plastic usage, i think that all of us can play a part by reminding ourselves to bring our reusable bags during grocery shopping, or we could just place small objects in our own bags. Workers doing cashiering roles should also prompt consumers by asking if they need a plastic bag instead of assuming they do. I once worked at an F&B shop selling maki rolls, and i realised that by asking my customers instead of assuming they need plastic bags, it actually helps to reduce plastic usage significantly.

Every effort essentially counts, and i hope globally, people would start treating plastic usage seriously and not take them for granted.

Till then!!


1 Bag at a Time, 'Plastic Bags And Climate Change - 1 Bag At A Time'. 2015. Web.  http://1bagatatime.com/planet/environmental-impact/climate-change/

'Climate Change: Who Thought Plastic Bags? – Master Of Arts Program In Climate And Society'. Climatesociety.ei.columbia.edu.  August 29, 2013. Web.


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