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The ever expanding balloon of plastic

28 May 2018 12:01 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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I recently toured Cairo and was horrified to witness the mountains of plastic garbage stacked on all corners of the streets. In a city that receives less than 4mm of annual rainfall, there is hardly any chance for even biodegradable plastics to fragment. Soon Cairo will experience pyramids of plastic thanks to their recycling policies.  
In neurosurgery, when a tumour expands inside the skull or when there is bleeding into the brain, we tag that as a space occupying lesion/haematoma. As the skull has a compact arrangement if some intruder expands inside, the brain which usually occupies this territory is pushed aside. This ultimately results in death.   
Similarly I foresee danger in the heavy use of plastic and the ever expanding balloon of plastics.Unlike balloons, plastic containers do not burst and they tend to occupy space. Even if finely crushed the amazing nature of plastic does not allow compact forms.   
There are two types of plastic, thermoplastic and thermo-sets. Thermo plastics can be reheated and moulded into many shapes. These are ideal for recycling. Thermo-sets on the other hand can be heated only once. The only way to get rid of thermo-sets is to burn them. These are not suitable for recycling. Burning released toxic gases which are extremely hazardous. And also result in tiny fragments which pollute air and water without being “wiped away” .  

  • Sri Lanka needs to rapidly impose laws on importing plastic

  • Will the grounded plastic affect agriculture one day?

  • Worldwide statistics show that only 30% of plastic waste is recycled

  • Man created plastic and only man has the ability to halt plastic industry


Imagine a world filled with plastic dumps surrounding houses or even disrupting nice landscapes. Plastics that become a playground to pests and harvest infections. Plastic bottles gently strolling the roads in wind and rain, causing traffic jams. Mountains of polymer dumps which collapse and cause casualties. (We failed to identify, that the Meethotamulla garbage dumps do not undergo natural degradation because of plastics ; the true culprit).  
So you may wonder what to do with plastic? The amazing substance which created unimaginable possibilities even in aviation industry is becoming a menace now. Worldwide statistic show that only 30% of plastic waste is recycled. The rest will lie out there in dumps for centuries to come. What about plastic energy? There is some hope on using plastic as an energy source although data shows that the toxic waste and carbon monoxide generated is worse than a thermal power plant.   
Will the grounded plastic affect agriculture one day? Will plastic dumps affect the marine biodiversity? Man created plastic and only man has the ability to halt the plastic industry. As a country Sri Lanka needs to rapidly impose laws on importing plastic. Or else our country will be one of the leading plastic disposals in a few decades.  


The writer of this article is a Consultant Rheumatologist at the Anuradhapura Hospital  

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  • P.Selvaratnam Tuesday, 29 May 2018 11:47 AM

    ''Conveniences'' have consequences: our children are going to pay for our conveniences through their poor quality of life.


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