Letters To The Editor

"You're not defined by your past; you're prepared by it. You're stronger, more experienced, and you have greater confidence." –Joel Osteen

The growing trends of recycling

Plastics are inexpensive, lightweight and durable materials, which can readily be moulded into a variety of products that find use in a wide range of applications. As a consequence, the production of plastics has increased markedly over the past years. However, current levels of their usage and disposal generate several environmental problems. Around four per cent of world oil and gas production, a non-renewable resource, is used as feedstock for plastics and a further three to four per cent is expended to provide energy for their manufacture. A major portion of plastic produced each year is used to make disposable items of packaging or other short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture. These two observations alone indicate that our current use of plastics is not sustainable. In addition, because of the durability of the polymers involved, substantial quantities of discarded end-of-life plastics are accumulating as debris in landfills and in natural habitats worldwide. Recycling is one of the most important actions currently available to reduce these impacts and represents one of the most dynamic areas in the plastics industry today. Recycling provides opportunities to reduce oil usage, carbon dioxide emissions and the quantities of waste requiring disposal. While plastics have been recycled since the 1970s, the quantities that are recycled vary geographically, according to plastic type and application. Recycling of packaging materials has seen rapid expansion over the last decades in a number of countries. Advances in technologies and systems for the collection, sorting and reprocessing of recyclable plastics are creating new opportunities for recycling, and with the combined actions of the public, industry and governments it may be possible to divert the majority of plastic waste from landfills to recycling over the next decades.

Zahra Usman,

The socioeconomic impact of growing population

The traditional concern is that population growth will sooner or later run up against the limits of the earth's finite stock of resources. Unrestrained population growth eventually leads to falling wages and rising food prices because, as the labour force expands, a rising ratio of labour to land leads to smaller and smaller increments in output per worker. Population growth is ultimately checked by rising mortality. Falling standards of living and increasing levels of pollution would lead to a population collapse within 100 years. A related view is that some resources land, forests, fisheries, though fixed, are renewable, but that their sustainable yields do have a maximum limit. Some harvests may exceed this maximum, but they lead to a permanent reduction in the long-run productivity of land. A population whose needs (subsistence and commercial) exceed sustainable yields will have lower per capita incomes in the long run. Human ingenuity might be a match for these changes, but it might be able only to maintain income, not to lift millions of people out of poverty. Moreover, the costs of rapid population growth differ greatly from country to country. Those differences are not confined to differences in natural resources. In countries heavily reliant on agriculture, a scarcity of natural resources does matter. But the underlying problem is low income and low levels of education, which are sources of rapid population growth and simultaneously make the required adjustments to it more difficult. Much of the world's population lives without the benefit of clear signals to encourage smaller families; yet these are the families and the nations in the worst position to make the adaptive responses that rapid population growth requires. That is why rapid population growth is, above all, a development problem.

Maryam Haseeb,