Saturday, March 25, 2023

Replacing plastic culture

With effect from July 1, the government of India has banned the manufacture, sale and use of identified single-use plastic items like plates, cups, straws, trays, and polystyrene. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about India’s move in this direction from the ramparts of the Lal Quila on January 26, 2019. Thereafter, a notification was issued on August 12, 2021. The implementation notification was issued in January this year and the order became effective from July 1,2022. The ban will impact everyday use such as ear buds with plastic sticks, plastic sticks for balloons. With a population of 1.35 billion, India is saddled with more than 550,000 tons of mismanaged plastic waste reaching the ocean every year. Experts have estimated that annual waste generation in India will increase to 165 million tonnes by 2030. This means that around 66,000 hectares of land is needed to set up a landfill site which is 10 metres high and can hold up to 20 years’ waste. With global concerns on the threat posed on the environment by plastic, the ban will cause much problems since alternatives are not easily available. Scientists estimate that every square mile of oceans contains about 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Plastics take around 500 to 1000 years to completely degrade due to the presence of complex polymers. As a result, till now whatever bit of plastic has ever been manufactured or used by us can be found in some form or the other on the planet. According to The World Economic Forum study done on plastic pollution around the world, Oceans will have more plastics than fish by 2050, if plastic pollution continues to rise. India’s contribution to plastic waste that is dumped into the world’s oceans every year is a massive 60%. The challenge is on curbing the use of plastic but the bigger challenge is on how to dispose off tons of garbage? Experts have pointed out that plastic pollution cannot be curbed with laws but implementation which environmentalists stressed, was all about proper disposal of plastic waste. With population explosion, coupled with improved life style of people, results in increased generation of solid wastes in urban as well as rural areas of the country. In India like all other sectors there is a marked distinction between the solid waste from urban and rural areas. However, due to ever increasing urbanization, fast adoption of ‘Use & Throw’ concept and equally fast communication between urban and rural areas the gap between the two is diminishing. Why it is difficult to effectively ban plastic is because of its low cost, ease of manufacture and resistance to water, versatile plastics are widely used in packaging products, ranging from a paper clip to aircraft to space ships. What is needed is alternative to plastic items especially in packaging and carry bags. Earlier, brown paper bags were used but the weight they could hold was limited unlike plastic bags. Besides not being water proof, 70 percent of the “new” bags provided at stores are made from recycled paper themselves. Plastic bags are easily available and convenient. It will be a big task replace single-use plastic primarily since customers are not charged for carry bags. Disposal should be given equal priority as banning plastic otherwise, all the slogans will remain meaningless and the government would be biting off more than it can chew.

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