A pandemic called plastic
In the last decade, the composition of garbage/solid waste in Indian cities and towns has been gradually dominated by thin polythene carrybags and varying sizes of satchets, cups, plates and containers made of flimsy plastic. Ironically, the word disposable is a misnomer, because most of these plastic items are not disposed of but just passed on along a typical chain.
Once they leave the place of manufacture, these low grade plastics (fit only for single use) travel from the storekeeper to the consumer to household garbage bins to tricycles/tempos to municipal solid waste bins and finally to landfill sites. When they are not channelled to reach bins or garbage collection points, they are seen flying just about everywhere on roads and footpaths, at public places where people gather, along the railway tracks, at inaccessible places including lakes, nullas, open wells and drains and even on treetops.
Plastics travelling downstream reach villages on the outskirts of urban areas and cause untold damage to farmers’ fields and cattle. Enough has been said and written with vivid portrayals through pictures and the electronic media. Each of us is well aware of the pollution and destruction caused to air, water, land, animal and man by the disposable characteristics of low grade plastic materials which no one wants to retrieve. They are neither recyclable nor biodegradable.
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Littering is now a behavioural licence in India. It is assumed that sanitation workers are paid and therefore people are entitled to litter the place. But no amount of resources spent on facilities for picking up litter is adeq michael kors outlet online uate for clearing the unsightly mess in front of eateries, shops and entertainment spots. For all the talk on segregating domestic waste at source, namely in households, the practice of filling cheap plastic containers with leftover food and wet wastes is only on the increase and compounds the problems of sanitation workers at every l michael kors outlet online evel.
If anyone is blamed it is the municipality! Surprisingly, no one speaks about who generated the litter in the first place. Growing consumerism over the last decade has compounded the problem to make it reach proportions. Less than two years ago, three young children foraging for bits of metal and recyclables in mountains of garbage at a landfill in Autonagar, Hyderabad, were actually buried alive under a landslide of garbage, predominantly plastic. A few months ago, three women went missing at a similar site at Jawaharnagar in the same city.
Let us not become so insensitive as to treat these instances as mere news items. From administrators in government, to plastic manufacturers and consumers, everyone has a role to play.
It is not that we as a nation were unaware of the problem 10 years ago. Several environmentally conscious citizens trusted our policymakers and waited for them to take bold decisions and implement them. In small groups, consumers decided to use their own reusable shopping bags and to no to plastics. The effort of such groups has, however, been a drop in the ocean!
An entire generation has grown up with a familiarity with only the single use polybags and plastic sachets as packing material. While policymakers continue to discuss the optimal levels of microns (40 microns) for prohibiting/permitting plastics, the responsibility of resisting the plastic deluge will rest with the end users or consumers.
Some steps which can be implemented easily, immediately and universally include the following:
Equip yourself with alternatives to plastic carrybags cloth, canvas, jute and thick paper bags can be reused several times before we discard them. They are biodegradable.
When you step out of the house, make sure you have a few of these bags of different sizes for unexpected purchases on the way. Make this an important habit.
Do not accept items from any stores in thin polythene bags. Keep your own bag of appropriate size and material ready to take in the items you buy perishable fruits, vegetables and flowers; pre packed items including provisions, medicines, confectioneries; minor items from hardware, electrical stores, etc.
For monthly groceries, make sure you have two or more bags made of tough material jute, canvas, thick cotton or reusable synthetic bags for different items provisions, detergents and cleaning agents, other items.
Encourage your family and friends to carry their own bags (foldable, rollable, collapsible), and not be tempted to accept polybags.
Wherever feasible, make your own bags; gift bags to others.
Spread awareness by your active participation in reviving/promoting bags, containers, gifts, toys and display items made from natural resources such as wood, cane, bamboo and jute.
Think beyond temporary bans.
Restore, develop and promote alternatives which do not destroy the environment.
Ultimately, it is we the citizens who will have to initiate and aggressively sustain yet another strong Movement’ to save ourselves and our planet, as well as protect future generations against the prevailing plastic pandemic. Even when we stopped at so called “look out points” and looked below we only saw a sea of plastic bottles. Clearly the people littering are the relatively rich who for some reason are completely unable to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Forget Lokpal, lets fix the plastic situation and we will all be better off.
These are the days that hardly none is unaware of the perils of the plastic, thanks to various media. Carelessness and negligent michael kors outlet online attitude coupled with ‘me alone who do it’ way of thinking contribute to the problem getting compounded.