Plastic Pollution and its Solution – Imagine our future, our mountain ranges with full of plastic wrappers, bottles, and cans; our rivers and streams flowing with plastic straws and polyethene bags; our beaches full of other plastic wastes. I know today I am asking you to imagine this pollution but in the coming years, this extreme plastic pollution is going to be a harsh reality. Why? Well, I am so sure of this, is because of three reasons.
First, the lifetime of plastic, it takes around 450 to1000 years for plastic to degrade. The plastic lying around you will remain in this world even when you are gone. Second, the amount of plastic produced is huge, it has been only a hundred years since the plastic was invented and we have collected around 8.3 billion metric tones of waste (2016). Most of the plastic waste produced is of unnecessary plastic items.
Every year we generate around 8 million tones of plastic waste as landfill. Third, we, our choices, our consumption habits, or the choices we make of unnecessary plastic items. We have been seeing rivers getting clean, pollution getting low, environment and Earth getting heal but this is happening only because we are inside our home. I know once we are out without new adaptations, its going to be the same thing. In the future I hope, I would be proved wrong but as per now, this is true. This is going to be a harsh reality.
40% of plastic generated is used only for packaging purposes. Of all the plastic waste generated only 9% is recyclable, 12% is burned, and 79% is sent for landfill site dumpsite. The consequences of waste generation at this huge rate and being dumped into the oceans, in the end, can be seen everywhere across the world. In 2015, 90% of seabirds were reported to have eaten plastic in a survey report. In 2018, a sperm whale was found dead on a seashore with 32 kg of plastic inside it. This included plastic bags, nets, drums, etc. 90% of waste entering the oceans through rivers comes from ten rivers in Asia and Africa.
One of these ten rivers is our river Ganga which releases around 1.2 billion pounds of waste into the ocean while the Yangtze River of China contributes around 1.5million tones of waste in the ocean alone itself. This river contributes the most among 10 rivers for marine pollution all over the world.
With the passage of time plastic pollution is emerging as a new challenge for us to deal with. Plastic waste has impacted not only marine life, the environment, but also human health in a new form of plastic i.e. microplastic. Microplastic is an invisible kind of plastic as being smaller than 5mm in size. It is generally used in the manufacturing of cosmetics and toothpaste etc. These microplastic results from floating waste exposed to UV Radiations. 51 trillion such particles float on the ocean surface which can be easily swallowed up by marine life. Then from marine life, it gets into our food chain and affects our health system.
Apart from microplastic we also have chemicals used in making plastic bottles that are found to harm human life. These are DEHP and BPA i.e. Bis (2 ethylhexyl) phthalate and Biphenol A respectively. DEHP provides flexibility to the plastic bottle while the BPA is used to get the transparent look of the bottles. Microplastics and these chemicals together would result in harmful effects on living organisms.
See banning plastic seems to be the option but it’s not practically feasible especially in today’s world. Technically, the energy consumed in the manufacturing of plastic is way less than the energy consumed in the manufacturing of any of its alternatives such as Jute bags or other items. Even cotton products consume a large amount of water, and similarly, other alternatives to the plastic in one way or another way have a similar effect whether it is resource utilization, energy consumption, etc. But when we see this with a larger perspective and for a long term effect then the alternatives are far better. See you need to have a wider perspective when you are working for the benefit of all (lok sangraha).
Now let’s come to the solution part that would be simple, to avoid single-use plastic, cut down demands for unnecessary plastic items, prevent plastic from going to the dustbin, or end up in dumpsite. The solution to sum up or in one line would be “Going back to the Indic roots”. Yes! The solution lies there, people have been following it for ages and that’s why Bhartiya Parampara/ Indian lifestyle is considered to be most sustainable among all other lifestyles. Hence I will be discussing few practices or could say principle which can help you out to understand or relate the true meaning of sustainability.