KARACHI    -     About 100 million tones of plastic are produced every year all over the world and production of plastic is growing about nine percent annually. The use of plastic is very common and used in a variety of ways ranging from household appliances to industrial and commercial products.

These views were expressed by the Assistant Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Karachi, Dr Anjum Nawab on Wednesday. She was giving lecture during the seminar held on Professor Dr Mustafa Shameel Memorial an approach to the solution of plastic pollution organized by the Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization at the Arts Auditorium.

“However, major chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastic are highly toxic and cannot be digested by the earth even in centuries and that is why it poses a serious threat to living beings of all species on earth.

“In the environment, plastic breaks down into smaller particles that absorb toxic chemicals and ingested by wildlife on land and in the ocean and later enter into the human food chain. Plastic is creating a negative impact on land and reducing soil fertility by lessening the growth of plants and trees by blocking absorption of minerals, water and other nutrients and also spoils environmental aesthetics and hygiene,” she added.

She said that effects of plastic on marine life include entanglement and ingestion of plastic debris by marine vertebrates. Over a million sea birds and mammals die annually from the ingestion of plastic which is taken mistakenly for food by birds, turtles, seals and whales. It chokes them, poison them or impede digestion and causing starvation.

She further said that toxic chemicals contained in plastic cause neurological problems, cancer, birth defects, hormonal changes gastric ulcer, thyroid problems and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Anjum Nawab added that biodegradable plastic can be completely broken down by microbes in a reasonable timeframe, given specific conditions and thermal biodegradable plastic is safe to use for foods because it is non-toxic and can often be recycled. The Officer Green Business, World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan, Shahzeen Pervaiz, during her presentation, mentioned that annually, almost eight million tons of plastic enter the oceans globally, which means plastic account for 60-80 percent of marine garbage.

She said that Indus River is the second most polluted river with plastic in the world while first, third and fourth polluted river belongs to China and Nile River, Africa is fifth in this list.

She added that Pakistan’s plastic industry is thriving at an average annual growth rate of 15 percent with a total estimated production capacity of 624, 200 metric tons per annum whereas there are some 6, 000 plastic products manufacturers in Pakistan and Indus River contributes to 164, 332 tons of plastic waste.