Ban single-use plastic products

Flights Of Fantasy

[M Panging Pao]

The aftermath of any official, public, family or political function are littered with single-use plastic products like water bottles, disposable glasses/plates, plastic sachets of gutkha, pan masala, etc. Most of these hazardous items are simply burnt, leading to pollution and increase in greenhouse gases. All these are directly leading to global warming and climate change.

The last few decades have been marked by increased use of plastic products the world over. Technological advances have led to a quantum jump in the use of single-use plastic. Being cheaper and durable, plastic products have replaced many metal, alloy and wood products.

Fifty percent of the total plastic produced is for single-use purposes – utilised just once. These single-use plastic products include plastic water bottles, carry bags, disposable plastic glasses, plates, spoons, straws, toffee wrappers, bottle caps, etc. Additional single-use plastics include millions of sachets packed with pan masalas and gutkhas. About one trillion single-use plastic bags and half-a-billion plastic straws are used annually across the globe. Around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated each year around the world, and about 15 million tonnes of plastic waste is dumped into the sea. Our cities, towns and villages are full of plastic waste.

The problem with plastic is that it is not biodegradable and it can take thousands of years for plastic to decompose. Most plastic waste end up in landfills, dumped into rivers, lakes, oceans, or simply burnt. Plastic waste in landfills and oceans contaminates our soil and water bodies. The toxic chemicals used to manufacture plastic get transferred to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain as micro-plastics. Plastic waste on land is affecting domestic and wild animals. In rivers and oceans plastic waste has increased and is directly affecting marine/aquatic life. Plastic waste leads to blockages of drains, sewers and streams. These blocked drains and sewers and landfills become breeding ground for mosquitoes, flies, bacteria, etc, leading to spread of dreaded diseases.

The solution lies in a combination of state policies and public cooperation. Many countries and states are adopting and implementing policies by banning the use of single-use plastic and imposing heavy penalties. The direct way is by stopping manufacture of these products. Offices and organisations should be mandated to avoid using plastic water bottles and single-use plastics at any meeting, seminar, gathering, etc.

Public awareness must be created about carrying own bags for shopping. The public should be sensitised to avoid plastic water bottles, disposable plastic glasses, plates, spoons, etc, and about proper disposal of plastic waste.

Plastic waste is directly affecting all life forms and endangering Earth itself. Unless immediate steps are taken, the process of degradation of Earth may become irreversible. Let’s start today by carrying our own shopping bags, own water bottles, and avoid using plastic water bottles, carry bags, disposable plastic glasses, plates, spoons, etc. The government should ban single-use plastics, including plastic water bottles. Do you agree? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)