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7 Ways To Beat Plastic Pollution (If You Want The Earth To Live At Least Till 2050)

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The world celebrates World Environment Day each year in June and each year, the United Nations determines a theme or a goal, towards which multiple organizations and institutions along with the United Nations make a concerted effort. The theme reflects some of the most pressing current environmental issues, with this year’s theme being #BeatPlasticPollution.

Usually, the themes for World Environment Day are associated with tree plantation, forest conservation, renewable energy, etc. The fact that the United Nations decided to focus on plastic pollution in 2018 should tell us that the problem is immense. Unsurprisingly, India is one of the most plastic polluted countries, containing 14 of the most polluted cities of the world, according to World Health Organization. India is, therefore, a focal point of this campaign.

Our country has an ongoing Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which in principle should have addressed the problem of plastic waste and plastic pollution, but the reality tells another story.

According to Global Citizen, at least 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year. That’s equivalent to emptying a garbage truck of plastic into an ocean every minute.


Moreover, 60-90% of marine litter is plastic-based. The amount of plastic in the world’s oceans could increase by a factor of 10 in the next decade. Cigarette butts, plastic bags, fishing gear and food and beverage containers are the most common forms of plastic pollution found in the oceans.


How did we get here?

Ocean Conservancy reports that “Global production of plastic increased from 2 million tons in 1950 to 380 million tons by 2015, a growth rate 2.5 greater than that of the global economy. Half of that amount was produced in just the last 13 years.

If this global trend in production continues, humans will have produced 34 billion tons of plastic by 2050 (100 times greater than the weight of all the humans on the planet), four times more than we have made to date. Close to half—46% of that (a whopping 12 billion tons)—is expected to be discarded in landfills or the natural environment.

As a material, plastic is long-lasting and durable and doesn’t degrade. This is one of the reasons plastic can be so useful when it comes to human health and food safety–especially in the developing world. But this also means that plastics accumulate in the natural environment and landfills, leading to what Geyer and his coauthors call a growing concern of a “near-permanent contamination of the natural environment.”


So what was heralded as a low cost, lightweight, durable solution to packaging problems, has now become a problem beyond anyone’s control.

The facts about India’s plastic industry as declared by Center for Science and Environment are as follows:

Down To Earth reports, Plastindia Foundation—a body of major associations, organisations and institutions connected with plastics estimates that in 2017-18 alone, India consumed 16.5 million tonnes of plastic. Worse, according to industry body FICCI, 43% of India’s plastics are used in packaging and are single-use plastic.

Single-use plastics are those which are used only once e.g. the packaging of your bag of chips, soft drinks, mineral water, straws and cups used by coffee brands, plates and cups used in parties, weddings, bags used by hawkers and street vendors and even the cups used by roadside tea sellers. Consumption has clearly outstripped India’s capacity to recycle.

The government has tried but failed to implement plastic bans successfully. Policy is also not implemented strongly enough to hold the corporates accountable. CSE reports that “The complete ban on ‘non-recyclable multi-layered plastic’ which was implied in the 2016 rules was removed through some clever wordplay.”

When it is clear that the Government and corporates aren’t doing enough to recognise and address plastic pollution, the only other stakeholder that is responsible in this chain is us, the individual consumers. While corporate investments in better packaging are eminent, Government policies will make sure that there is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), it is eventually upon us to undergo a behavioural shift.

Here are some ways, though not easy and complete by themselves, that will definitely add to the multi-faceted effort of beating plastic pollution:


7 things you can do to #BeatPlasticPollution:

1. Say no to single-use plastics

When you buy groceries, medicines or get something from a street vendor, say NO to the plastic bags. It doesn’t matter that it is thicker than 50 microns, it will still be a menace. Carry your cloth or reusable plastic bag.

2. Buy Responsibly

It is simple economics – the more people buy sustainably packaged products, the cheaper they’ll become. Look out for those brands which don’t use plastic packaging.

3. Inconvenience yourself

Carry your own bottle of water, coffee mugs, reusable straw, Tupperware boxes for taking remaining food from those restaurants dinners.

4. Urge companies to change the packaging

The companies that sell us things in single-use plastic packaging do so due to economic reasons. Talk to your favorite brand, ask them to #SayNoToPlastics. Globally, brands have started realizing this problem and are willing to work towards it. Do your job, write to them, call them out on social media. Be persistent till they change!

5. Ask The Government To Change Policies

The next time some political leader asks you for their vote, or even if they don’t, ask them what are they doing to address plastic pollution? Do they even think this is a problem? Ask them to set up recycling units under your municipal ward.

6. Segregate Your Waste

There are about 7500 plastic recycling units across the country. But, even they cannot come inside our homes to segregate waste that we generate. Look at the waste you generate, reduce it if possible and segregate plastic and non-plastic waste. This will help the plastic recycling supply chain.

7. Participate In Beach/River/Pond Cleanups

Even if you do most of the things mentioned above, there’s still a ton of plastic waste that we have generated over the past few decades. It will not go away by itself. Join your municipal corporation or an NGO or call your friends and organise a clean-up. Clean your street, school, college, station, pond, river or beach. Make sure that the plastic collected goes to recycling.

The plastic pollution problem is like no other, both in terms of its scale and its rapid increase. We will all need to work on it collectively if we do not want our rivers to choke, oceans to die and fish to perish. Let us all take a pledge to #BeatPlasticPollution Lastly, talk about this with as many people as you can. We can keep debating about our political ideologies, let us first save the planet we live on!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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