It is no secret that the population across the nation has been littering to the extent that it is confusing as to see where and how big the dump is. When I see a large pile of plastic waste on the road on my way back from office or after going for a ride, it is indeed angering.
I remember this meme on social media that shows an illiterate person working very hard to clean the environment by picking up the plastic while an “educated” person throws a large plastic bag on the road from inside his car. It is indeed the reality of the society we live in.
One of my uncles told me that he has seen NRIs being very conscious of littering when they are in Dubai or New York or London, but when they come back to India, things are back to zero. At a time of hyper-nationalism, screaming out patriotic lines and deeming everyone else as anti-nationals, this move is very hypocritical. We think about our environment only when a foreigner comes and asks us a lot of difficult questions.
Environment conservation is important to ensure that our children and children’s children live peacefully. The soil, the air, and the water resources are depleting at an alarming rate, and we are already late. Single-use plastic is one of the horrendous reasons why the environment is depleting at a rapid pace.
In simple words, single-use plastics are those products which can be used only once; we usually throw them away or recycle them immediately. The single-use plastic items include straws, disposable cups, water bottles, bags, covers, etc.
It is no secret that plastic is a very cheap material to produce in a growing economy like India. Plastic is very easy and reliable to use. There are no pores on its surface, and therefore, it can be easily used to transport food items or drinks to avoid leakage, compared to containers made of paper. We use plastic covers or wrappers during the rainy season to prevent useful things from getting wet.
It is because plastic takes a lot of time to decompose and it is generated in large quantities, thus resulting in large dumps. When you burn plastic, it produces a toxic gas called “dioxin” which is harmful to humans. It gets accumulated in our body fat to the extent that it gets passed down from a mother to a child. Dioxin was one of the chemicals used in “Agent Orange” which was used by the military in the Vietnam war, which resulted in health issues in over three million people. The expulsion eroded tree covers and made reforestation very difficult.
When you don’t burn plastic, it will get accumulated at the place of disposal and break down into smaller components. During this process of breaking down, it releases toxic substances that enter organisms, including humans. These toxins cause a variety of health issues such as cancer, weak immunity, infertility etc.
Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, and merely 10% is recyclable, including the single-use plastics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said in his speech that he wants India to be free of single-use plastic and has requested the citizens to avoid the same. In his words, the horrors of plastic and how it affects the environment came to light during massive floods across the nation. During the 2018 floods, I remember an image which went viral on social media showing a bridge covered with plastic items after the water level came down. Nature has shown us what is happening to it.
PM Modi also urged startups to come up with ideas to recycle plastic and encouraged people against it.
First of all, we can avoid single-use plastic items as much as we can when we purchase something or when we visit a restaurant. Plastic need not be recyclable, but it is reusable. Take a plastic bag with you when you go shopping. Reuse as much as you can. Plastic also works as a very good cover during the rainy season. Many online tips will show you how to use plastic in creatively, like turning it into a decorative house item or use it grow plants.
It is good that the government is taking environmental issues seriously. Influencers like Greta Thunberg serve as a sign of hope to humanity and the future.