Plastics – The Then Durable, Now Curse – Plastic Pollution
Our Earth is drowning in plastic pollution, it is not a statement but a cry from the United Nations. UN records about 300 million tonnes of plastic being produced every year. About 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic produced in less than a century of which at least 60% has found its way to pollute a natural environment as claimed by researchers.
What do these mammoth figures about the plastic pollution reveal to us?
Why is it so significant and relevant to discuss the daily use of plastics and the ways to reduce it?
Here are some facts for you.
Fact check 1:
Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced had been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated (burned), while the rest 79% has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment leading to plastic pollution.
There are many types of plastic produced from different sources. From industrial and consumer point, one-time-use plastics aka use and throw plastics, find more gravity. Starting from a juice straw, shampoo bottles, freezer bags, ice cream containers, food packaging films, water bottles, dispensing containers, biscuit trays, Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags, trays, potato chip bags, microwave dishes, bottle caps, cutlery, plates, cups, hot drink cups are only a few to mention.
How to Save Ourselves From Plastic Pollution?
Obviously, restricting ourselves from using items/things that are made of plastic, in turn, paving a way to a reduction in plastic production. This is the only way forward. We also need to bear in mind the amount of waste generated is alarming and we need to have a clear unstrained focus to manage plastic wastes to save earth from plastic pollution. This is where it becomes significant to reuse plastic bags, containers as much as possible.
Most of the plastic dump reaches the ocean through rivers. Just 10 rivers in the world contribute to more than 90% of the plastic dump that reaches the ocean.
Fact check 2:
River Ganges and the Brahmaputra carry 73000 tons/year (or) 3% of total plastic trash across the world. Plastics were appreciated in the beginning for their durability and their resistance to degrade. However, the same has become a curse to mother nature which is choking to completely break down plastics.
What makes plastics so harmful?
Most plastics don’t disappear completely, rather they break down smaller and smaller. But the threat arises when they are swallowed by farm animals or fishes that mistake them for food and thus can find their way to our kitchen.
Fact check 3:
WHO warns cigarette butts — whose filters contain tiny plastic fibers — were the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment leading to plastic pollution.
Drinking water bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, drink lids, straws, and stirrers were the next most common items. They play a great role in clogging sewers and gift breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests, plastic wastes especially plastic bags can increase the transmission of vector-borne diseases.
Shocking studies present evidence of microplastics in treated tap and bottled water which have raised questions and concerns about the impact that microplastics in drinking-water might have on human health.
Fact check 4: Incineration (Burning) Is Recycling
On a macro scale, Sweden has the best waste management solutions in the globe. They adapt to a unique waste-to-energy (WTE) technique which converts household wastes into energy. ‘Swedes say incineration is recycling’. But it has to be accepted that incineration is a step up to landfill. Up to 86 percent of all plastics in Sweden are being incinerated.
Sweden built its first waste-to-energy plant in the 1940s. Many countries today like India has a ban on plastics initiatives and are actively implementing it. But, by incinerating the plastics aren’t we switching from plastic pollution to air pollution through the smoke?
Many countries across the globe are continuously putting a lot of effort into saving earth from plastic pollution. But, as an individual what are we going to do to get rid of plastics?
The objective is to REDUCE, by how?…
We all inevitably need to reuse plastics to tackle the situation and to save earth from plastic pollution. Some of the simple tips through which we can reduce plastic pollution are,
– Reuse plastic bags that are still at home. Carry them with you to the market for shopping instead of throwing it into the dustbin.
– You can also reuse older plastic bags just not as it is, instead, by adding extra creative flavors to it via paint and design. If you are high on your creativity, you can also utilize plastics in a Jump rope, lampshades, and even tennis shoes. Browse Google and you would find many webpages that provide tips to reuse plastic bags.
– Carry water in a lightweight reusable water bottle from home instead of buying water in plastic bottles.
– Buy reusable cloth bags. See if you can turn your old clothes and t-shirts into cloth bags. All it requires is a basic sewing skill or no sewing at all in some cases. You can refer to how-to videos on youtube.
– Do not throw the ice cream balls that are made of plastics instead reuse them by filling water in it, freeze it and use them to give ice pack massage when you are experiencing a swelling/sprain in the body.
While to reuse plastic bags delays them to end as a dump, refuse wherever possible to stop them at the source itself.
– Look for items in carton boxes instead of plastic bottles. This includes laundry detergent and dish soap. Pick pasta in a box instead of a plastic bag. Look for companies that source their cardboard sustainably.
– Refuse straws – “No straw, please” when requesting beverages at restaurants or cafes as it can simply add a lot to our efforts.
– Switch to milk containers that are made up of Glass instead of plastics be it cover or a container. If you can get fresh milk supplied by a milk vendor in your country, switch back to them and stop preferring Milk that arrives at your home in plastic covers.
– Use cloth holders (clips) made of wood or metal instead of plastics.
It is as simple as that. Remove trash when you see it and displace them at a proper place.
– Consider having two dustbins at home preferably non-plastic ones to separate and store trash according to their nature (Bio-Degradable / Non-Bio-Degradable). By doing this we are not only doing good for ourselves but for the garbage collectors who protect us from falling sick as well.
As individuals, we shall ensure that the plastics reach recycling pockets smoothly. Spend a few minutes and try to find a group nearby your resident who helps recycle plastics.
Fact check 5:
As part of world environment day celebrations, clean-ups took place across India on 48 beaches and riverbanks. Over 6,000 people gathered at Versova Beach in Mumbai to join UN Environment Champion of the Earth Afroz Shah in the 136th week of his beach clean-up. Mostly, to recycle/reuse plastic bags, bottles, caps and other wastes that amounted to over 90,000 kilograms.
Reducing plastic wastes to save earth from plastic pollution is very essential. Something that can not be achieved only by diplomats and legislations as long as we take up in our hands as responsible human beings.
We must keep our place neat and clean especially when we have only one living place identified so far for mankind and all living beings, THE EARTH.
Nothing Works Without Motivation
What made us pen down this article are the inspirations listed below, thanks to their initiative and efforts which all shall add up to much greener society as together.
1. Waste management in Sweden and Israel.
2. The state of Colorado was looking for alternatives to plastics. They realized that anything made from plastic can be made from Hemp (a plant, grown for fiber). Yes ‘WoW’ that’s exactly how it feels, right. Colorado aims to produce enough hemp for clothing, building materials, and oils.
3. India’s first garbage cafe – you heard it right, an applauding initiative to recycle and reuse plastic bags which end up as major waste from domestic uses.
Bring plastic waste and take a full meal.
The scheme launched by the Municipal Corporation in the Chattisgarh state of India. A first of its kind in the country. It provides food to the poor and homeless in place of plastic wastes.
4. India has pledged in the UN Environment day to ban all single-use plastic in the country by 2022.
5. Tamil Nadu state government of India had banned all non-biodegradable plastics including single-use plastics since Jan 2019.