The plastic crisis is one of the major health threats India is facing today. From our daily use items to furniture, most things in Indian households are made of plastic. Today India produces almost 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste daily of which 10,000 tonnes remain uncollected and pollutes the open environment.
The Indian plastics industry was set up in 1957. Because of its versatile nature and multiple utility benefits like durability, lightweight, being unbreakable, and cheap, plastic became a top preference of the people. As technology grew so did the common usage of plastic, slowly most things that were sold freely like pulses, rice, flour, etc started coming in plastic packages, the people started preferring polythene bags over traditional cloth bags.
Plastic is convenient, waterproof, strong, etc but these advantages do not outweigh the harm caused by its usage on a daily basis. One of the most noted backdrops of plastic that it does not decompose which means it remains in the environment in form or another polluting it from the inside out which leads to another conclusion that all the plastic that was ever made still exists!
Plastic crisis causes infestation!
After we discard the plastic it goes to the landfills and dumpsites and these become breeding grounds for disease-carrying carrying insects like rats, flies, mosquitoes causing health hazards like dengue, yellow fever, malaria, etc.
Plastic crisis fuels climate crisis
99% of the plastic is made from fossil fuels, manufacturing plastic pumps toxic gases into the atmosphere. Once discarded it lasts for centuries releasing toxic gases like methane and ethylene, when burnt, it releases dioxins, furans and mercury which are a threat to humans' as well as animals' health. These gases released into the atmosphere worsen the already worse climate conditions.
Huge amount of discarded plastic waste accumulates in the city landfills everyday. Chlorinated plastic releases harmful chemicals into the soil, which easily seep into groundwater or other surrounding water sources, drinking water from these sources can be harmful for humans and animals. Littered plastic further breaks into microplastics and gets mixed with soil and also is the food we eat!
Every year about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean every year because of which approximately a whopping 100 million marine animals die every year, a 100,000 marine animals die from getting entangled in plastic each year!
The dumped plastic later breaks into microplastics which pollutes the fragile ecosystems of the oceans. The tiny bits of plastic are eaten by fishes and the fishes are eaten by us, so we are indirectly eating plastic thrown by us! Did you know, from all these different sources of microplastic, we eat around 5 grams of plastic each week, that's 250 grams per year. So we are eating the waste that we created.
So, how can we be part of the solution and not the pollution?
Most of the uncollected plastic is the result of people littering here and there. It's time that we stop this age-old ritual and keep that piece of trash in our pocket till we find a dustbin to dispose of it. The habit of littering is taken as a joke in India by many, stray animals ingest plastic on a daily basis, mistaking it for food which leads to choking, starvation, internal organ failure, and finally death. It's time we teach ourselves and others that littering is no joke!
Here are 6 fun steps to reduce your everyday plastic footprint
1. Look around in your house and make a note of all the plastic products you are using, including the packages. Start reusing the ones you can. For example, instead of buying new pens, refill the old ones, get only refillable ink pens from the next time so you can avoid the plastic refill too.
2. Try to replace the plastic items in your house with eco-friendly ones, you can start with bringing in some shopping bags to carry when you go out, replace plastic organizers with jute/wooden/cardboard ones, use fabric furniture covers instead of rexine ones.
3. When you go out, keep your own water bottle and food if needed. Buy consciously, minimize the purchase of products that come in a plastic packing/bottle/tube. You can gradually create a system of making a few things by yourself like homemade shampoo, face wash, scrub, etc. besides being eco-friendly, it will also be more healthy, free of harmful chemicals and preservatives.
4. Find out which of the common brands available to you are eco-friendly and cruelty-free and choose them over others.
5. When you organize a gathering or party, opt for biodegradable alternatives for plastic decorations such as balloons, props, and disposable utensils, you can buy 'pattals' which are disposables made out of leaves, or edible utensils. there can be many creative ways to decorate in an eco-friendly way as well. When you go to a friend's party, you can give them these suggestions too, which takes us to the last but not the least step -
6. It is equally important to create awareness and educate people around you. Here are some tips to tell them: