Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.
Our relationship with plastics needs a rethinking. We derive oil and gas from the earth to make these plastics but the way we use them is extremely reckless. These plastics are designed such that they can be used only once and then they are thrown away. We have to change our mindset and approach towards such a crucial resource. All of us have totally failed to capture the economic benefits of plastics. We need to start thinking of plastic as a renewable source of energy rather than a one-time use-and-throw product. Each one of us has to make efforts to transition from being linear to a circular economy.
Do something drastic — cut the plastic!
The amount of plastic that is produced in the world every year has increased explosively in just a human lifetime. From 2 million tons in 1950 to 368 million tons in 2019. Production is expected to double by 2050. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India report (2018–19) puts the total annual plastic waste generation in India at a humungous 3.3 million metric tons per year. Another report by the Center for International Environmental Law 2019 suggests that by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons, 10-13% of the remaining carbon budget.
There are sufficient facts and figures to show the extent of the damage caused by plastics to our environment and the catastrophe that awaits us.
Be part of the solution, not part of the pollution.
The best available solution that is available to us is to immediately transition to the circular economy of plastics. Reduce usage of plastics wherever possible especially in packaging. And the most important of all is to consciously make efforts to reduce plastic consumption.
For India, the solution has to be multi-faceted to create any visible impact. With a population of 1.39 billion people, the road ahead is more daunting for India. We have to lead the whole world from the front and for that to happen we have to start acting towards sustainable use of plastics. The Plastics Pacts model oﬀers such a solution and is active in a number of countries including the U.K., South Africa, and Australia. It has now been brought to India by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF India). On 03 September 2021, India became the first Asian country to join the Plastics pact. The Pact envisions a world where plastic is valued and does not pollute the environment.
The Plastic Pact
The Plastic pacts model talks about tackling plastic pollution at the source and to achieve that we must stop plastics from becoming waste in the first place. We need to move away from today’s linear take-make-waste model and fundamentally rethink the way we design, use, and reuse plastics. The Plastics Pact is a network of initiatives that bring together all key stakeholders at the national or regional level to implement solutions towards a circular economy for plastics. Each initiative is led by a local organization and unites governments, businesses, and citizens behind the common vision with a concrete set of ambitious local targets, for example in the following areas:
- Eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic packaging through redesign and innovation.
- Move from single-use to reuse where relevant.
- Ensure all plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable.
- Increase the reuse, collection, and recycling or composting of plastic packaging.
- Increase recycled content in plastic packaging.
- All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety and the right of all the people involved are respected.
We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. — Howard Zinn
Our past we cannot erase. Our future needs less waste.
India is finally moving ahead with stricter norms to control large-scale plastic pollution. The 2021 draft Plastic Waste Management Rules (PMR), published by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on 11 March 2021, has necessitated some major changes in how the country treats its plastic waste. This draft adds some seriousness to the nonchalant attitude of the people.
The draft rules propose to give manufacturers five years to reach waste management targets, beginning with 30% and increasing to 90% in the fifth year. According to the notification the allowed thickness of plastic bags, currently 50 microns, will be increased to 75 microns from September 30, 2021, and to 120 microns from 31 December 2022. It also proposes to prohibit the manufacture, import, storage, distribution, sale, and use of certain single-use plastics on or after 01 January 2022. These include plastic sticks for balloons, plastic flags, candy sticks, ice-cream sticks, and thermocol (extended polystyrene) for decoration.
The direct benefits of this policy will be numerous, but indirect benefits must not be ignored. Out of many, I would like to mention a few of the benefits of Reducing and Reusing plastic.
- Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to harvest new raw materials.
- Saves energy.
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change.
- Helps sustain the environment for future generations.
- Saves money.
- Reduces plastic-induced diseases like asthma, pulmonary cancer due to inhalation of poisonous gases, liver damage, nerve and brain damage, kidney diseases.
This draft focuses on the seriousness of pollution caused by commonly used plastic items, particularly those that are no longer useful beyond a few minutes. If implemented properly, this would become the biggest milestone achieved by the current government.
I think, on a personal level, everybody, when you go through the checkout line after you get your groceries and they say, ‘Paper or plastic?’ We should be saying, ‘Neither one.’ We should have our own cloth bags.- Woody Harrelson