“Beat Plastic Pollution” was the theme for World Environment Day this year. And, India was the global host for the occasion. While that sounds great, we still have a long way to go when it comes to curbing plastic pollution in our cities. Why? Because plastic has become an integral part of our daily lives and it’s often difficult to even think of trying to remove it completely. Let’s take the example of our city, Kolkata. Nasty heaps of plastic choking the drains, water bodies, and the Hooghly River is a common sight that most Kolkata residents have gotten used to by now. It’s nearly the same story in other cities. Yet, we continue to reach out for plastic bags and bottles just because it’s easy and convenient to do so. But the impact of this is graver than most people realize.
Plastic Pollution is a Pervasive Menace
What’s terrifying is that there is a shelf-life for every product, but when it comes to plastic, it is not the case. Plastic products take around a thousand year to totally degrade. This means, every single bit of plastic produced so far, still exists in some form, either in the air we breathe, the food we eat, or the water we drink. With billions, or probably, trillions of plastic waste in our natural environment, the threat of plastic pollution is widespread, pervasive, and rapidly increasing.
Plastic dumped in landfills interacts with soil and form hazardous chemicals that seep into the ground, degrading the soil quality to an extent that it may not be capable of producing agricultural resources for an indefinite period of time. Plastic waste in groundwater reservoirs, both natural and man-made, pollutes our drinking water with poisonous substances, which can trigger a number of health concerns.
Plastic Pollution in India and Anti-Plastic Initiatives
In India, the plastic menace is turning out to be a national concern. Right now, Indian cities generate near about 56 lakh metric tonnes of plastic waste annually, out of which, the national capital alone accounts for 9,600 metric tonnes per day. Moreover, 70% of the total plastic consumption in India is thrown away as waste, which is making waste management an uphill task for the concerned authorities.
However, efforts are being made to control plastic pollution. For instance, the country’s capital has imposed a complete ban on disposable plastics since last year. According to government data, 17 states and union territories have also banned the manufacture, sale, and use of plastic carry bags.
As the global host for World Environment Day 2018, India pledged to ban single-use plastics in all states by 2022. This ambitious announcement is expected to provide the much-needed boost to activities carried out by environmentalist, entrepreneurs, celebrities, innovators, the common man, and activists against plastic pollution. Our country has also declared to participate in the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, promising to address the serious issue of marine plastic pollution through various clean-up initiatives.
Other major commitments included pan-India plastic waste clean-up drives in forests, beaches, tourist spots, national reserves, and public spaces. Here are some initiatives adopted by NGOs, the common public, and corporations to tackle the menace of plastic pollution across the nation.
“Beat Plastic Pollution” in Delhi Schools – An initiative driven by Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), is making Delhi schools aware of the 5 R’s — refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle — encouraging children, teachers, and parents to adopt safe environmental practices. The organization plans to expand their campaign in other schools across the country. (link not opening)
The Suchitwa Mission – Suchitwa Mission, an NGO, has launched an innovative project, in which, fishermen are being employed to pull out dumped plastic wastes with the help of fishing nets from various water bodies. In just 10 months, the mission managed to extract 25 tonnes of plastic waste from the ocean.
Turning Plastics From Ocean Into Roads – Kerala-based fishermen, with the help of government agencies, have set up a recycling centre in Kadalamma. The state-of-the-art plastic recycling centre, cleans, sorts, and processes plastic waste fished out by the fishermen. The plastic is then sold to local contractors for construction of roads and buildings.
Anti-Plastic Initiatives by Corporate Biggies
Taking a cue from the government’s focus on “Beat Plastic Pollution”, some of the country’s biggest corporates and MNCs have pledged to reduce the usage of plastics. PepsiCo India has decided to introduce completely compostable packaging for its Lay’s products. ITC Ltd has announced its commitment to deploy 100% reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging for its products within a few years. Maruti Suzuki India and Hyundai India also expressed their “Beat Plastic Pollution” commitments.
Some Practical Tips for You
Ultimately, no amount of initiatives and campaigns can bring about the change unless we switch to better choices and alternatives rather than using plastic items in our day to day life. Here are some things you can start doing today to reduce plastic pollution.
- Plastic shopping bags are usually free although chargeable in few places, but they have a high cost on the environment – Carry your own shopping bag.
- Keep a refillable water bottle handy – Stop buying plastic bottles.
- Demand ceramic, porcelain, glass or biodegradable cups in the coffee shop – Avoid using polyethylene coated disposable coffee cups.
- Cardboard boxes are biodegradable – Choose cardboard boxes wherever available.
- Straws are a single-use plastic item – Say no to straws.
- Avoid consumer products that contain plastic chemicals like polypropylene – Use natural, biodegradable alternatives.
- Skip disposable plastic razors – Switch to a metal razor that lets you replace the blade.
- Get rid of disposable diapers – Make use of reusable cloth diapers or the biodegradable variants. They are easily available in shopping portals.
- Re-evaluate food storage options – Replace plastic zipper bags, plastic wraps, and boxes with glass and steel containers.
- Wear clothing made of natural fibres – Avoid synthetic dresses.
Let us promise to refuse, reuse, and recycle. Let us shop wisely, and only opt for environmental-friendly products. If we all join hands to reduce plastic waste, we can make the dream of a plastic-free nation and planet a reality.