Opinion

Independence Day: Turning the tide on plastic pollution

Plastic is everywhere - and it’s creating a mess across our cities, towns, and villages. This Independence Day, let’s seek freedom from the evils of plastic pollution.

Anitha Shankar
15th Aug 2019
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So how plastic are you? And what have you done about it?


Plastic is everywhere! And what a mess it has turned out to be. We have heard about it, seen its effects on our cities, despised it, and endlessly talked about it! Has it been just a dinner table conversation or have you changed your lifestyle even a wee bit to make a cleaner Earth?


This is not some incomprehensible and farfetched ‘climate change’ topic. Single-use plastic menace clogs our major drains, messes our roads, rivers and water-bodies, kills animals, and is slowly but surely working its way right into the very air we breathe, the food we eat, and the land we live on! We will all be severely compromised, if we don’t take action today. Not tomorrow, but today.


If you are practising a non-plastic lifestyle, we applaud you. Yes, it’s not easy. But it is possible. And we can all turn the tide if we work together. This Independence Day, make a sankalp (pledge) on one habit you will change to be plastic-free. And stick to it. Hashtag and proudly proclaim #ISayNoPlasticFromTODAY!


eco-friendly

There are many conscientious citizens who are regularly taking action to avoid their plastic from morning till night. Stay at it and increase your tribe. Talk about it, inspire your friends and family and especially children to say no to single use plastics. Lets practice it and move to sustainable materials today.


Global efforts


The whole world is mobilising efforts to decrease plastic footprint. Every country is reeling under this menace and there is a huge support system globally continuously created to tackle this even as you read this.


Many worldwide groups like the WHO, UN Environment, WWF, thousands of communities, NGOs, sustainable startups, and other organisations like plastic–free coalitions, recovery and recycling plants, media houses are bringing to light the extent of the damage with action-oriented approaches. There is a long way to go to get this under control. But the ball is rolling and you all need to be a part of this. Let’s start the ‘Make a buzz dinner table conversation and follow-up with action’.


India is taking action:


In India, public engagement activities alongside policies, frameworks, and regulations by the government are taking shape and leading the world towards tackling plastic pollution. “We are committed to eliminate all single-use plastic by 2022,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on World Environment Day on June 5. And that is a tall order and as citizens, it’s our responsibility to visualise this goal and help to reach it with everyday actions.


The good and the bad:


All is not doomed.


  • India is the highest in recycling plastic thanks to our tireless ‘raddiwala’. India recycles 90 percent of its PET waste, outperforming Japan, Europe and the US.
  • Technology is helping you recycle at a click of a button
  • Countless startups help with recycling, sustainable options, creating awareness, and regular cleanliness drives. From collecting clothes, books, plastic, e-waste to helping make cities, religious places, beaches, historical monuments plastic-free - they are doing it all. Join them!
  • The PET recycled clothing is turning big. Support them. Even the Indian Cricket association made the entire Indian cricket team’s apparel for the 2015 World Cup from recycled PET bottles
  • Many prominent spokespersons, famous personalities are using supporting “Clean India” movement. And many local citizen movements have gained traction
  • The Swachh Bharath movement has initiated many campaigns towards a ‘Clean and Proud India”
  • Several large corporates have pledged to decrease and eventually stop their single-use plastic usage from Infosys, ITC, Cement Manufacturers Association, and many more


Although much is already happening to address plastic pollution, the pace and scale of change need to increase significantly.


  • According to the Central Pollution Control board, India generates 25,940 tonnes of plastic every year and it is only increasing as the population mounts
  • The Ganges and the Indus are two of the 10 rivers in the world that heavily contribute to plastic waste in oceans
  • The very welcome plastic bans need to spread across all states and need to become more effective
  • 40 percent of plastic waste still goes to landfills
  • Cities need more effective segregation, recycling, and waste disposal system that matches the growing cities’ needs


And so its imperative that we take collective action. This Independence Day, let us pledge ‘No Plastic’ in our everyday lives. And take action today. Just follow-up on your pledge with some of these steps:


  • Online shopping – In your comments section during order placement, write ‘no-plastic packing’. You don’t need a T-shirt in copious amounts of plastic packaging
  • Refuse anything that cannot be reused – straws, cutlery, disposable cups are a big no-no. Carry your own or request for reusable cutlery
  • Please request for RO filtered water in a glass instead of bottled water. It is the same concept of filtered water in our homes. Why drink anything else outside, as long as you can ascertain its is RO filtered or equivalent. And when stepping out, carry your own reusable water bottle.
  • Parties, events, marriages need to go green. Use reusable tableware. Do not make the citizens pay an expensive price because you want an inexpensive, trouble-free disposable event.
  • Try taking loose groceries. Demand clean and neat groceries. Remember, we had corner stores for years, which sold us open non-plastic, wrapped groceries in open gunny bags. If customers continuously demand sustainable options, businesses will heed. Help them also go plastic-free.
  • When ordering takeaways, request sustainable boxes and minimal use of plastics. Reward restaurants who give takeaways by supporting them with your orders. Write about them, applaud them because it is not an easy business choice. It is a moral and a responsible choice way above business choice. They need to be recognised
  • Say no to plastic festive decors, utensils, giveaways, and bags. Use simple but sustainable alternates like cloth, steel, cotton, paper, etc. You can do without the balloons either.
  • Create awareness with your flower vendor and refuse their services if it comes in plastic bags. Just hand a cloth bag outside your door so they can slip the flowers into it
  • Segregate your garbage into three bins. Make it easy for the pourvakarmikas to channelise the waste management process more effectively
  • Make rules in your apartments and communities for no-plastic usage and good waste management practices
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle everywhere possible.
  • Remember our mothers and grandmothers used to collect all milk packets and covers and give it to the raddiwala. Restart that. Segregate, educate
  • Refuse that plastic knife when you order a birthday cake. Say no to the plastic spoons that come with your ice-cream
  • Most importantly, keep multiple small reusable carry bags with you - in your handbags, purses, office bags, cars, and bikes. Say no to the plastic carry bags. Who knows, this very action of yours would save a cow from choking on the garbage it eats
  • Keep a clean set of tumblers, spoons, and plates in your cars while travelling. Next time you stop for that coffee break or pav-bhaji, idli-vada, you can proudly go no-plastic


Set your mind to it. Intent is all that is needed. We have been doing this for millennia in India and everywhere else. After all, plastic is only a 70-year-old phenomenon.


Someone once said Indian plastic pollution has been caused by “laziness and a failure” of imagination and innovation which needs to change. Let’s change the tide.


Let us together make India free of single-use plastic by 2022.


Happy Independence Day!


(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)



(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)



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