Can we think of a plastic-free life? In the time it takes Hardik Pandya to bowl an over in a cricket match, four garbage trucks worth of plastic get dumped into the oceans, according to an United Nations study.
India is the global host of 2018 World Environment Day, taking place on June 5, with 'Beat Plastic Pollution' as the theme. But the nation has a poor track record to control this menace to humanity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his 44th episode of 'Mann Ki Baat', stressed on environment pollution and climate change. "This year the theme of World Environment Day is 'Beat Plastic Pollution'. I appeal to all of you, that while trying to understand the importance of this theme, we should all ensure that we do not use low grade polythene and low grade plastics and try to curb the negative impact of plastic pollution on our environment, on our wild life and our health," he said.
An integral part of life:
Studies have shown that toxic chemicals which leach out of plastic can be found in the blood and tissues. Continuous exposure to them leads to cancer, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.
Yet by will or force, people tend to use it. Vegetables, fruits, grocery, biscuits… most of the items of daily use, are packed in plastics.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has said that the use of plastics was a global emergency affecting every aspect of life.
Health experts have cited---lack of awareness and poor enforcement of environmental laws---as the main reasons for continuous use of plastics.
Last month, Maharashtra became the 18th state in India to ban the use of plastic. In 2003, Himachal Pradesh was the first. The National Green Tribunal in August last year reinforced a previous ban on plastic in Delhi-NCR. It ordered a penalty of Rs 5,000 to violators of the ban.
Yet, plastic bags are still easily available in the market. In fact, according to a report in 2016 by the Central Pollution Control Board, most states had not yet implemented the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2011, five years ago. These rules mandate proper systems to ensure the segregation and disposal of plastic waste as well as crackdown on unregistered plastic manufacturing units.
Moreover, “plastic bags are stocked, sold and used indiscriminately” even in the states and Union Territories where they are completely banned. In 2012, the Supreme Court had warned 'the next generation will be threatened with something more serious than the atom bomb' in the absence of 'a total ban on plastic.'
The last meal of several dead aquatic animals was---plastic, a study said.
Some marine species, such as sea turtles, have been found to contain large proportions of plastics in their stomach Each year, at least eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans, the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute.
According to the journal 'Nature Communications,' river Ganga is the second-highest source of plastic pollution in Bay of Bengal.
The plastic thrown in water bodies, lives endlessly, causing harm to the flora and fauna.
Moreover, the plastics are said to be the main reason for the choked drainage systems.
According to media reports, blocked water drainage system from plastics was one of the reason of the 2005 Mumbai floods. Immediately, after the flood, the then Maharashtra government had banned plastic bags below 50 microns in density.
According to report published by Central Pollution Control Board in 2015, more than half of the plastic waste produced everyday litters streets and drains.
Often, waste food packed in plastic is eaten directly by street animals. The plastic enters the digestive tract of the animal and chokes it.
In 2016, PM Modi had noted that consumption of plastic leads to death of cows.
The road to awareness:
Environmentalist say, to create awarenesss, a grass-root level approach is required, which can be achieved by educating young about harmful effects of plastic and various means to recycle and decompose it.
Symbiosis International University has initiated various programmes to build awareness among students about the need to preserve the environment, .
The Symbiosis Centre for Waste Resource emphasises on waste reduction, reuse and recycle, at-source segregation and decentralised processing of waste resources. The Centre has developed a simple and user-friendly method ‘NisarglaxmiI’ to process household organic waste into a quality compost, according to a statement from the university.
Moreover, the university campus has systems including biogas and composting units for processing organic waste resources, bottle crusher for plastic bottle processing.
The TINA factor:
Several environmental NGOs have suggested paper and jute bags as alternatives to plastics. These product are hygienic and bio-degradable and cause no harm to body or environment.
Union Minister Mahesh Sharma, last week, stressed on the need to curb the single-use plastic.
"The need of the hour is to create social awareness, particularly among the youth, on reducing single-use of plastic and its reuse. The menace of plastic cannot be tackled till a win-win situation is created for all stakeholders with regard to the use of plastic," he said.
Emphasising the importance of Extended Producer Responsibility in reducing use of plastic, Mr Sharma said the organised sector should be roped in to retrieve, recycle and reuse plastic.
European Union ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski has highlighted the concept of 'plogging' (a combination of picking up plastic waste and jogging). He said that this concept was popular in several European nations and can be used to reduce plastic pollution.
To tackle plastics pollution, an environmentalist has suggested “5R rule”-- refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (composting). Also known as the waste hierarchy, this approach emphasises extracting the maximum practical benefit from products while generating the minimum amount of waste.
Several companies in India have pledged to minimize the use of plastics and maximise recycling.
"We have pledged to recover and recycle one package for every single one that we put out in the market by 2030," Coca-Cola India and South West Asia Vice-President (Public Affairs and Communications) Ishteyaque Amjad has said.
Infosys aims to replace PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) water bottles, plastic carry bags, food sachets, toiletries, garbage bin liners and business card holders among other plastic items used at its campuses with environment-friendly materials.
To use or refuse it, the choice is yours. (UNI)