Plastics have been an inseparable part of our lives for the last few decades. In India alone, roughly 1.5 crore kg of plastic is produced everyday, and the staggering stat is only increasing. We use plastics for anything and everything, so much that we’ve forgotten the times we used other things. For instance, not so long ago, people used to get milk delivered by the milkman. No plastics or bottles, just milk directly poured from his steel pitcher into your steel saucepan.
Another example is that of jute bags. Back in the day, it was a very common practice to carry jute bags to shopping, but the past decade saw such a high dependence on plastics that government and private organizations have started charging for plastic bags, and thankfully as a change cloth bags and jute bags are coming back into use and fashion.
10 facts about plastic pollution in India
1. Roughly 6 lakh tonnes of plastic waste produced in India are not recycled and dumped straight into the oceans.
2. India is among the top 20 countries contributing to oceanic pollution. We should follow the example of these countries that are saving us with their plastic bans.
3. 50% of all plastics produced in our country are either one-time use only (like plastic packaging on various items) or use and throw (like spoons, plates, glasses etc)
4. 1 tonne (1000 kg) of recycled plastic saves:
- 3000 litres of oil
- Around 5800 kWh of energy
- 66% of the energy which would otherwise have been used to make plastics from raw materials
- Landfill space of 25 m3
- 3000 litre of water
- 7500 litre of gasoline
5. The same piece of plastic can be recycled and redistributed within a month.
6. A plastic bag takes roughly 500-1000 years to be naturally decomposed, a plastic bottle takes 500 years. This essentially means ever piece of plastic ever produced still exists. We should collectively try to replace plastic with eco-friendly products.
7. Out of the total plastic bottles produced in India, only a mere 27% is recycled.
8. Recycling of plastics can create 6 times as many jobs as merely garbage collection and incineration would.
9. Out of all the plastic that is recycled in India, 70% are government-approvedent approved plants, 20% at unauthorized sectors on local or regional level, and 10% are reused in homes.
10. Out of the seven kinds of plastics available, only 2 ( PET and HDPE) are recyclable.
What Should be Done
Plastics products like plastic bags have invariably become an inseparable part of our everyday lives, and to think that it could all be replaced overnight is infeasible. The society practically cannot give up overnight on the ease and simple luxuries that the advent of plastic has given us all. The least we can do though, is make small changes in our own homes to reduce plastic waste as much as possible.
One major step can be using bamboo products instead of plastic ones, and believe it when I say, bamboo can pretty much replace all plastic items. Bamboo toothbrushes are highly recommendable since they’re robust, more efficient and biodegradable. They’re also hypoallergenic and antibacterial, that means no health issues will arise due to internal use. Whether it’s the bowls and plates, or the spoons and forks, virtually all utensils (for serving, not cooking) can be made out of bamboo. Even reusable straws are a thing today, and they too are made of bamboo. Bamboo is so versatile that it can be separated into strands, which can be used for making bags and bed sheets.
It’s also time that we go back to using glassware more. We can also use glass bottles for fetching and storing milk. Today’s glass utensils are heat resistant as well, so they can be microwaved. Additionally, glassware does not react with the food when heated, so unlike plastic, it won’t affect your health in the long run.
Carry the good ol’ jute bags to the store. They’re way more sturdy than plastic, and would never snap in the middle of your trip. If we could all just make the habit of always keeping two jute bags in the trunks of our cars, usage of plastic bags can significantly be reduced, and you’ll save 2-5 bucks every time you don’t buy a plastic bag.
If we all replace at least 3 items from our daily lives with their organic alternatives, we can make the world a much better, less polluted place.