Ever-increasing plastic pollution is the most pressing problem for India’s environment, today. On average, every Indian creates 11kgs of plastic waste per year. As of today, India’s population is 1.39 billion people. Let’s do the math:
139,00,00,000 x 11 = 1529,00,00,000 kgs of plastic, per year.
This is a devastating figure. Our oceans, water bodies, landfills, streets, and any place available are being choked with plastic. Because of this, microplastics eventually enter our food chain either directly, or through the consumption of products that contain them because of massive plastic pollution. There is alarming research that shows microplastics have infiltrated our lives to such an extent that they’ve been detected in the placenta of several unborn babies, as well. What other wake-up call do we need?
Let’s face it: plastics are here to stay. What we have to do is reimagine their consumption and ensure they start functioning in a circular economy system. To do this, we must consider each stage of plastic’s journey, from production to the end of its life cycle. There are 3 main actions which we need to take, for plastic to function in a circular fashion: Eliminate, Innovate, Circulate.
All plastics that are unnecessary, replaceable, or problematic need to be eliminated. If a particular use-case of plastic can be replaced by a material that is sustainable, we need to eliminate that plastic. For example, single-use plastic plates and cutlery can be replaced with pattals and compostable cutlery. Plastic straws can be done away with, and biodegradable straws can be used in cases where it is absolutely necessary. There are countless examples of plastics that are still used, unnecessarily. To move towards a truly circular system, we need to eliminate them completely.
There are some cases where plastic is irreplaceable. In such situations, it is essential that we innovate and create plastic that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Reusable plastics would be directly reused the next time and would not have to be altered or processed, therefore reducing the total amount of plastic used. Recyclable plastics would be processed in some way and then used again, reducing the total amount of plastics produced. Compostable plastics would not harm the environment and compost naturally, thereby reducing plastic’s negative impact on the environment. These innovative solutions are in place for some use-cases of plastic but need to be scaled immensely, to make a tangible difference.
On an individual level, we need to learn how to circulate the plastic items we do use. It needs to become our endeavour to keep them in the economy, rather than ending up in landfills or polluting the environment. We must try and reuse items as many times as possible, and dispose of them in the correct manner to ensure that they are processed and returned into circulation at some point in the future.
Holding ourselves accountable and taking every possible step to ensure that we follow these three actions is the only way to move plastics into a circular economy system. We must also push for our government to take measures and create policies that ensure all produced plastics are free of harmful substances. This includes keeping people involved in the production process of plastic also safe, apart from the end product being non-hazardous.
The first step is to make yourself and the people around you aware! If you agree with the message in this blog and wish to spread it, share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. With very little time left, every small step you take counts.