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Plastics not Pretty: Earth Day Special

Plastics not Pretty: Earth Day Special

There is much hubbub about plastics and pollution. Environmentalists, activists and various agencies have been talking about the blue planet becoming toxified irrevocably, due to this potent poison created by none other than the man himself. In fact, it is horrifying to know that over the last 10 years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Let’s put that in perspective- Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. This should not be a surprise at all. After all, don’t we all so often see cruel images of whales washed ashore bursting with the plastic mess, or the occasional street cow consuming a polythene bag in sheer ignorance? The real question is, what are we doing about all this plastic pervasion?

How harmful are plastics really?

To be able to take a decided move, it is important to know the gravity of the situation! Yes, we know that plastics are harmful to everything- to our environment, to our fellow wildlife species, and of course to us!

  • Plastic production and plastics themselves release harmful chemicals which are absorbed by human body and accumulate within us, leading to altered hormones and adverse health effects.
  • Much of plastic is dumped in the oceans- Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile*.
  • Most importantly, it takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade! Also, 50% of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away. This makes for a potentially devastating material, which shall float around for centuries to come, creating havoc on not just us, but on our future generations.
  • Plastics lead to huge energy consumption- about 4% of the world’s oil produced is utilized for making plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.

These are only some of the consequences, while plastics have become so ingrained in our lives and it may not be possible to completely eliminate their use, small steps taken to minimize plastic use too can make a huge difference.

 

Animals find themselves tangled up in garbage, and microplastics make their way into the food chain | Credit: dw.com

Animals find themselves tangled up in the garbage, and microplastics make their way into the food chain | Credit: dw.com

Let’s fight against plastics this Earth Day!

Earth Day is here this 22nd April, and the theme for 2018 is “End Plastic Pollution”. How exactly will this help? The answer lies in the origins of Earth Day- it was almost 48 years ago, on 22 April 1970, that millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development**. Today this small step stands as an annual global event, which helps achieve much civic-focussed positive action in a single day. Yes, there is action getting done, but we might like to think of it as symbolic as well. If so much goodness for the planet can be done in a single day, imagine if we could take ahead this conscience every single day of each of our lives! So, what’s special about this Earth Day with the No-Plastics pledge?

  • Efforts to eliminate single-use plastics and promote 100% recycling of plastics
  • Global regulation for the disposal of plastics
  • Educating people about the disposal of plastics and aspects such as the presence of plastics in foods disrupting human hormones and causing disease.
  • Promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials

These are just some of the initiatives, the bottom line is to change human behaviour concerning plastics. For this, the Earth Day Network intends to rope in various stakeholders like individual citizens, government organizations, agencies, NGOs, corporates etc. But as we all know; every small drop makes a (clean) ocean! So why not take a pledge this Earth Day to take our own baby steps and make a small difference, leading to a huge change!

 

Plastics not Pretty: Earth Day Special

Sperm whale found dead with 29 kgs of plastic in its stomach |Photo Credit: Indiatimes

Let’s take a “No-Plastics Pledge” now!

Now, taking the no-plastic pledge just got a tad easier with some government support. Maharashtra is the latest to have joined the bandwagon, some of the earlier advocates being Jammu and Kashmir and 17 other states. Some states such as Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal have a partial ban on plastics, around religious, natural and important sites. Of course, whether such a ban works well, depends a lot on us citizens as well. So, here’s some bit you can do to reduce plastic consumption and automatically reduce the need for plastics:

  • Replace your PET jars with glass or steel containers, and your plastic water bottle with metal or glass.
  • Learn to say no- to plastic packaging, plastic disposables like straws, plastic bags etc.
  • Buy fresh, store in cloth bags: Rather than have your groceries delivered in pre-packaged style, go out and buy fresh from the local vendor.
  • Carry your favourite go-to mug with you at all times, and insist on being served in that in cafes etc.
  • Recycle whatever plastic you still rely on. Study about recycle rates and use high-recycle rate plastics if you must, like PETE or HDPE
  • Do digital for plastic digital devices like CDs or DVDs. Avail the flexibility of the cloud and avoid plastic-make data storage devices as far as possible!

These are small, but sure measures we must commit to together to be able to make a difference. With Earth Day approaching, we all have an impetus to take baby steps towards a plastic-free world- a healthier and happier world!

 

 

Cover pic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch| Credit: https://www.thoughtco.com


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About the Author /

Rhucha Kulkarni Currently a travel entrepreneur, writer, photographer and earlier an HR professional, Rhucha is an avid nature lover at heart.

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