The theme of the article
- With “Beat plastic pollution” being the theme of the World Environment Day (5th June) this year, there is renewed focus on Plastic waste, a problem that has assumed worrying proportions.
Plastic waste in India
- According to Central Pollution Control Board of India data, India generates 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste per day (about 5.6 million tonnes annually), out of which Delhi alone contributes to 690 tonnes daily — making it the largest contributor, followed by the likes of Chennai (429.4 tonnes per day), Kolkata (425.7 tonnes) and Mumbai (408.3 tonnes).
- 90% of this waste generated, is not recycled.
Impact of plastic waste
- The adverse impacts of plastic bags are undeniable: When they’re not piling up in landfills, they’re blocking storm drains, littering streets, getting stuck in trees, and contaminating oceans, where fish, seabirds, and other marine animals eat them or get tangled up in them.
- Plastic bags defy any kind of attempt at disposal, be it through recycling, burning or land filling.
- Plastic bags, when dumped into rivers, streams and sea, contaminate the water, soil, marine life as well as the air we breathe.
- When plastic is burned, it releases a host of poisonous chemicals, including dioxin into the air.
- Plastic is a toxin that stays in the environment, marine animals ingest it, and it enters their bodies and then ours.
- According to a 2014 toxics link study on plastic waste, plastic was contributing directly to ground, air and water pollution and ending up at landfill sites, where it stayed for centuries as it does not decompose easily.
Challenges in reducing plastic waste
- 500-1000 years, it takes for plastic to degrade.
- Despite multiple bans on plastic bags in the capital, including a recent NGT order that prohibited non-biodegradable plastic bags fewer than 50 microns in thickness, authorities are yet to fully clamp down on the menace.
- While the bans resulted in an initial phase of heavy fines, the number came down considerably after a couple of months.
- In the initial months of the ban, plastic usage fell drastically.
- However, poor implementation meant plastic bags returned to the market again.
- Fines are a big deterrent, but proper long-term planning is required.
- The alternative proposed paper bags, that biodegrade eventually, also have some challenges.
- One of the most comprehensive research papers on the environmental impact of bags, published in 2007 by an Australian state government agency, found that paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic. That’s primarily because more energy is required to produce and transport paper bags.
- The waste pickers could only send plastic for recycling if it was segregated but currently, almost 90% of the waste is not getting recycled as it is not being segregated at the household level.
- “There’s no easy answer to plastic waste and there are so very many variables. However, the different solutions at different ends are required.
- Use bags made of cloth or other environment friendly material; opt for sturdy glass or aluminum.
- Segregate plastic waste at household level.
- Introduce stricter waste management policy to ensure effective recycling.
- The ideal city bag policy would probably involve charging for paper and plastic single-use bags, while giving out reusable recycled-plastic bags to those who need them, especially to low-income communities and seniors.
- The larger takeaway is that no bag is free of environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. However, changing our lifestyle in the following way could help a lot:
- Weanyourself off disposable plastics: Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions.
- Stop buying water: Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag
- Boycott microbeads: Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes, instead of them opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
- Purchase items secondhand.
- Recycle the plastic products.
- Support a bag tax or ban: Urge your elected officials to introduce or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
- Bring your own garment bag while going for shopping.
- Put pressure on manufacturers to recycle the waste, considering the manufacturer responsibility.
World environment day
- World Environment Day was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972.
- World Environment Day occurs on the 5th of June every year and is aimed at encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.
- The theme for the world environment day 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and the host nation is India.
- In 2018, by choosing this theme, it is aimed that people may strive to changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution.
- People should be free from the over-reliance on single-use or disposables, as they have severe environmental consequences.
- We should liberate our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health from plastics.
- The theme for 2017 was ‘Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator’ andthe host nation was Canada.