Plastic is seen in all spheres of life, from bottles of water to machinery parts; from sewage pipe lines and water tanks, to bath tubs, electric fittings, screws and nut-bolts. Everything we use has a direct or indirect connection with plastic.
- Abundance of plastic
Plastic is available in so many variants that it is almost impossible to connect one type of plastic to another. Where on one hand we see the low-density polyethene bags used to carry almost all of our daily shopping products like groceries, on the other hand we have high quality plastic that is used in children’s toys, storage boxes, containers, water bottles etc.
- Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic on earth which is negatively impacting environment and living beings. Plastic is non-biodegradable and takes approx. 500 to 1000 years to completely degrade. Every year nearly 13 million tons plastic waste is added to the env.
- The Ban on Plastics
At such a time, debate often arises whether plastic should be banned. Ideally, yes, it should be banned but practically, it is simply not that easy. While banning plastics is a boon for the environment, it will be a bane for the economy.
WHY BANNING PLASTIC IS NECESSARY?
- Sources of plastic pollution
Plastic is something that is being used right from the kitchen to the living room. Even if we need to buy say milk or curd, it is packed in polyethene. Due to huge customer base, the vendors kept on buying huge number of bags replacing cloth and jute bags.
- Difficult to decompose
It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to decompose and hence it is a permanent pollutant. The structure of plastics is not naturally occurring and thus organisms have not yet been evolved to be able to utilize its chemical composition and thus cannot be decomposed naturally.
- Disastrous ill-effects
The major part of the plastic waste is getting mixed in the oceans which is creating severe problems for marine life. It is not just affecting the water in the oceans, but also land and groundwater. Plants are absorbing small plastic particles. Plastic waste is preventing rain water from seeping into the ground. These products clog drains as well. Bangladesh witnessed worse floods due to plastic waste and hence imposed ban on plastic.
- Endangers wildlife
More than one million marine animals and birds are killed annually due to plastic wastes directly or indirectly. Plastics sometimes are directly consumed by fish and other marine animals and these animals die due to entanglement of plastic components in organs. Sometimes, the plastics in landfills is consumed by birds and the birds suffer the same fate as fishes. Autopsies of dead fishes and birds have shown all forms of waste material being accumulated in their intestines.
Global plastic demand stands in excess of 300 million tons every year. Every-where we look, we see plastics. This over reliance on plastics has led to excess of it in dumpsters and landfills. In India, 80% total plastic consumption is thrown as waste and according to the statistics, the country generated 26 tons of plastic waste daily. Every year, nearly 13 million tons of plastic waste is added to the oceans.
Many plastic related toxins have also been found in humans. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is widely known as the most toxic plastic for health and the environment. In its production, it releases many toxic chemicals. Further, plastics have also been proven to be carcinogenic. The increased number of cancer patients has been attributed in part to the increased use of plastics.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF BANNING PLASTIC?
- Expensive Packaging
Plastic offers a cheap, hassle free, light-weight long duration and air tight packaging. Paper bags and cloth bags cost quite a lot more than plastic bags and are not durable. Also, paper bags and paper packaging can be damaged easily thus compromising the safety of goods being packed.
- Difficulty in Branding
Mostly, companies give away custom made plastic bags that act as brand features with company logos, contact information etc. Printing on pre made plastic bags costs much cheaper compared to cloth bags which need to be custom made. Thus, the ban on plastics will not only affect the plastic industry but other industries as well.
- Adverse Impact on Product Pricing
When the packaging of products is changed to an expensive alternative, it will naturally affect the price of the product. This will result in a chain reaction of increase in prices of products all over the market and affect customers and businesses.
- Greener Alternative
The situation calls for developing a substitute for plastics as pretty much everyone depends on them. Currently, there are two types of bio degradable plastics available. The first is a plant-based hydro-biodegradable plastic known as Polylactic Acid which is formed from corn and degrades within 47 to 90 days. The other type is petroleum-based oxo-biodegradable plastic. Apart from this, paper bags or biodegradable bags can be used.
- Reducing the use of plastic
It is the responsibility of every individual to reduce the usage of plastics. This can be done in simple ways by carrying your own bag for shopping, avoiding the food from plastic containers or using plastic water-bottles.
- Gradually Ban Use of Plastics
Banning use of plastics outright is a very drastic measure that we cannot afford at the moment due to lack of alternative options. Even if it is banned, it might result in illegal manufacturing, use and disposal of plastic material which might further add to the problem as there will no longer be any rules and regulations to follow as plastic itself will be contraband.
Recycling the already available plastics is the only solution to this problem. If we want to move forward from plastics, it has to be done in steps. Recently Hindustan Unilever has launched the process of plastic disposal & recycling leading to no adverse impact on environment.
- Steps taken by the govt
Recently Mumbai, the biggest plastic waste generator banned sale, import and usage of single use plastic. Also, single use plastic is banned in 18 states of India. Plastic covers below 50 microns is also banned because thinner bags pose major threat to environment and are not recyclable.
Thus, all what we can do is to ensure minimum use of plastic on the personal level and move towards the greener initiatives. Nature is a wonderful gift to the humans, and it is our responsibility to preserve it, with all that we have. By making little changes in our day to day life, we can help the mother earth to regain its beauty. Along with implementing bans on plastic goods, alternative materials should be encouraged. We should feel responsible for the plastic waste we throw. To make everyone feel responsible, extensive awareness programs are needed. Nothing happens overnight, but if we join hands together, we can surely make a difference.
If you want to have a brief idea about how to present these points in front of a group, do watch the video-