In this series, we discuss use and hazards of different types of plastics. Plastic has made our lives very convenient in past few decades, however, it’s excessive use has also caused a lot of damage to the environment. Therefore, it is very important to educate ourselves about the kinds of plastic we use in our day to day lives and how it can affect our environment.
In this Wlog, we will discuss effects of the use of Low-Density Poly Ethene or LDPE, which is identified by recycling code 4. If you haven’t yet, please check out the previous wlogs on PETE, HDPE and PVC. Happy Reading!
Low-Density Poly Ethene ( LDPE )
In the second wlog of this series, we discussed about HDPE or High-Density Poly Ethene. What is the difference between HDPE and LDPE, as both are “polyethene”? The difference is in the structure of two. The chains of LDPE are branched unlike the chains of HDPE. Hence, HDPE is denser than LDPE, just as a metal is denser than cotton candy.
LDPE is resistant to degradation due to water. It is also not affected by acids, oils or other chemicals. It is cost-effective to produce LDPE. It is used to make laboratory equipment, plastic packaging, etc. As LDPE is light weight, it a very efficient material for packaging. It also keeps the things packaged in it because of its high resistance and strength. LDPE is very convenient to use however, difficult to dispose.
If incinerated, it releases toxic gases, like carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmosphere. These cause respiratory diseases and degrade the ozone layer of the atmosphere that protects us from the harmful radiation of the Sun. If it is dumped in landfills, it can stay there for centuries because of its high resistance to degradation. Thus, it occupies large spaces of land, which could have been used for other purposes. Dumping it in landfills also leaches out harmful chemicals in soil like BPA (Bisphenol A) which can pollute soil and ground water. This pollution can cause health hazards and different types of cancers in mammals.
A lot of research is taking place on biodegradation of LDPE, where, bacteria can be made to ingest the plastic and break it down into simpler molecules. This can help reduce the plastic waste problem to a significant extent, in my opinion. Clean plastic wrapping and packaging, plastic bags can be recycled into useful products. Recycling can also help a huge deal to eliminate the major drawbacks of use of LDPE. It is our responsibility to make sure all the LDPE we use gets recycled or repurposed. It can be repurposed as a material used for construction of roads.
I hope we all recycle as much as we can, to do our bit for the environment.
Please leave your comments and thoughts below. Happy recycling till then!
Hello readers, I am Saee Gunjal, author of this Wlog. I am studying Environmental Engineering from 'The University of Toledo' ( Toledo, Ohio) and love to dance. I am passionate about environmental issues and waste management. I plan to work with the same after I graduate. Stay tuned for my next wlog on Polypropylene!