Pollution, even this word haunts us. And when it comes to plastic wastes, for most of us the proverb ‘out of site; out of mind’ holds true. Once we throw our plastic waste in the garbage, we forget it even existed. But that is not true for our planet, Earth. Today, the world desperately needs to address the biggest environmental challenges of the present times –Plastic Pollution.
On this World Environmental Day, we should take a pledge to stop choking our mother Earth with plastic garbage. If you cannot reuse it, refuse it!
Since its inception in 1974, the World Environmental Day has become a global platform for increasing awareness among masses about issues that concern the wellbeing of our planet. This day is celebrated enthusiastically in over 100 countries with a common goal of protecting our planet.
Basically, it is an overall ‘people’s day’ in which, every individual does ‘something’ for the betterment of our planet. Each and every action of an individual can be focused locally, nationally or globally. These efforts can be solo or community based.
Each year, a theme for the World Environment Day is decided that lays emphasis on a pressing environmental concern. In 2018, the theme for the World Environment Day is – Beating Plastic Pollution.
Every year, a different country hosts this special day and this year, it is India. In the last two decades, people across the globe have become more concerned about the environment and begun actively participating in numerous registered activities aimed at preserving the environment as well as preventing its further deterioration.
This year, on the occasion of World Environment Day, the UN has released a report highlighting the changes that need to be done in order to slow down plastic pollution. Every year, at least 13 million tons of plastic garbage ends up in the largest water bodies, i.e., the oceans, leading to the death of millions of innocent animals, who call oceans their home.
For instance, a small male pilot whale died in the waters of Southern Thailand after swallowing around 80 plastic bags. A large plastic garbage island is floating in the North Pacific Ocean, referred to as Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is greater than France, Germany and Spain combined. And, before this gigantic plastic island engulfs whole of our planet, we need to take concrete steps.
Plastic: The Growing Menace
The use of plastic products has increased manifold in the last couple of years, which has drastically affected our environment. No niche is left untouched from the harmful effects of plastics.
Historically, the era of plastic arrived in 1950 when it became a part of building technology. When the conversion of fossil fuels to plastics started, it brought with itself a sea of changes. Unfortunately, the production as well as the use of plastics has been detrimental for our planet. Toxic chemicals are released during the production of plastics. These chemicals are neurotoxic, carcinogenic and hormone disruptive in nature.
Why Plastic is a Menace?
Plastic has become a menace because it is nonbiodegradable in nature. Humans are using plastic – a material that lasts forever – for designing products that have a utility for a limited period. Annually, we use nearly 5 trillion disposable bags made out of plastic. On an average, a single person uses a plastic bag for 12 minutes, which takes nearly 500 years to decompose.
Harmful Health Effects of Plastic
Plastic has become a go-to material for us in the modern era. There are a number harmful toxins present in plastics such as:
- Bisphenol-A (BPA): It can damage the ovaries
- DEHP: It can hinder genital development in infant boys
- Phthalate: Its exposure to pregnant women increases the chances of development of asthma in babies
- Acrylamide: A potent carcinogen
- Microbeads: Used in the personal care products, these pollute water and enters into the food chain.
What Steps are Being Taken by Governments and Communities?
As the global attitude is changing, Governments and communities around the world are making changes in their policies and practices to reduce plastic waste.
Some of the initiatives taken by them are as follows:
- Australian supermarket Coles announced that it will stop wrapping fresh produce in plastic sheets in order to cut down on plastic waste.
- Woolworths, another supermarket, made a similar announcement stating that it will completely stop selling plastic straws by the end of 2018.
- The UK Government announced that it will ban commercial use of disposable plastic products like cotton buds, plastic straws and drink stirrers.
- The European Union announced that it will ban the use of plastic cutlery and straws.
- Kenya introduced the toughest ban on plastic use by bringing in the provision of fining the defaulter with 40,000 USD or imprisoning him/her for up to 4 years. This suit is being followed by other African nations as well, including Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan and Burundi.
What Can We Do?
Each one of us has a responsibility to protect our planet. If we have our right to use the resources that our planet has to offer, it is, at the same time, our moral responsibility to do something in return. There are a number of ways by which, we can decrease our daily use of plastics:
- Use glass or stainless steel bottles instead of plastic ones
- Switch to grocery bags made of natural fibers in place of plastic or paper bags
- Stop purchasing processed foods that come packaged in plastic containers
- Replace plastic food storage containers and plastic bags with safer options that are reusable
- Purchase wooden or metal toys for children
- Use cloth diapers in place of disposable ones
- Carry your own glass/metal water bottle
- Recycle everything
Sadhguru, a globally renowned Indian yogi, mystic and the best seller of New York Times, states that plastic is a classic case of how we have turned every blessing into a curse. Due to irresponsible uses, plastic has become one of the biggest challenges in the ecological sphere. Scientists claim that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the sea than fishes. Plastic has invaded our food chain as well. It is present in our milk, meat and almost everything we eat.
He suggests one simple solution for all the chaos that has been created by plastic. He urges people to stop single use of plastic products in the form of straw, coffee cup caps and more. People should refuse to use single consumption plastic products as a personal policy. Also, law should be exercised to discourage single of plastic.
He further states that this is our time and we should make the most of it. Let our future generation look up to us a as a responsible generation. Plastic is a boon, only if it is used responsibly. For spreading awareness among people about the growing problem of plastic overuse. He urges people to put a plastic bag over their head on June 5, 2018 to mark the World Environment Day and feel how our future generations are going to feel if we do not use plastics responsibly. He asks people to assemble in great numbers and take selfies with plastic bags on their head to spread awareness about what we are doing to our planet.
Plastic menace can be managed if and only if we all take a pledge. Fines imposed by the governments can only manage the situation for some time. It should come from within. The conscience of each and every person should be awakened before the last tree is cut or the last fish is dead. We should realize that money cannot give us the air to breathe or food to eat. Plastic is suffocating our planet.
Pledge for a plastic free Earth on this World Environment Day!