“Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.”
-Williams James Adams Jr.
After pushing myself through exhausting week, I wanted to savor the beauty of the nature, walking barefoot on the sands of the beach, where cold breeze soothes me from the stress I carry and feel the waves wash away all the anxiety as I stand with my feet in the water.
But, on reaching to the place I desired so much, the scenario shattered my expectations of joy and spoiled my mood so bad that I didn’t feel to visit any of the beaches of the world. The oodles of scattered waste made it look so messy that I could hardly think of stepping my leg on the beach.
This is just my experience and there would be many more people out there with similar experiences; these experiences are also a result of our actions. On a global level, unsorted scattered trash is causing a great destruction to the biodiversity of planet. We never had time to think about our waste. We throw away plastic (waste) within a fraction of a second without giving any second thought. We do not care about it once we throw it but when we throw it, it only goes away from our home or our vicinity and lands up somewhere else and someone is paying cost for that plastic item. When we throw away anything without a proper disposal mechanism it ends up in landfills which in turn look like mountains full of waste. Litter dropped by us on the streets also does not stay there as it gets carried away by wind and rain water and then it goes to rivers, streams, drains and eventually into the ocean! Plastic does not form the circle unlike other bio degradable waste because it is not a natural material and that is the main reason it cannot be digested by nature; especially polyethene terephthalate (PET or PETE or polyester) type of plastic (most dangerous one). It is us who have to start thinking differently and start treating our waste differently in order to do our bit to improve our worsened environmental conditions. Every small effort counts at the end of the day. Here are some facts as to why it is so necessary for us to rethink our plastic waste.
1. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.
2. Production increased exponentially, from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015. Production is expected to double by 2050.
3. Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single use plastic bags per year.
4. Plastics often contain additives making them stronger, more flexible and durable. But many of these additives can extend the life of products if they become litter, with some estimates ranging to at least 400 years to break down.
5. By 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with World Economic Forum.
6. The ratio of plastics to fish in the ocean (by weight) in 2014 was 1:4 and the ratio in 2050 is estimated to be >1:1.
7. Approximately 1 million sea birds die from plastic and 1 lakh marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement.
Above stated facts are not only serving the purpose of statistical information but also giving us a reminder that mankind is doing lot of damage to the nature and its other creations , especially the animals and birds along with their natural habitat is in danger and the main reason is our obsession to plastics. We need to pause and think about our habits of purchasing, using and consuming plastic materials or items , particularly the single use materials as the utility of that material is not very much but generally that plastic materials stay longer on the planet and leaves long lasting as well as harmful effects behind .
THE PLASTIC PROBLEM
When it comes to solving the plastic problem, generally recycling is the first thing that strikes us but the question we should ask to ourselves is that ; is recycling an ultimate solution to the humongous problem of plastic waste?
The idea of recycling gets quite controversial in the case of plastic especially in mixed plastic. Recycling plastic is not that simple unlike aluminum. Process of recycling plastic itself is not environment-friendly. Product resulting from the recycling process is low in quality in most of the cases and different materials require different treatments (washing, melting or chopping to name a few) in order to make a useful product. Plastic recycling is not viable even in terms of cost it costs US$4000 to recycle 1 ton of plastic bags and you get a product that can be sold on the commodities market for US$32.
We need to think of a better idea in order to achieve our green agenda and sustainable development goals. We need to use plastic as a resource. Some of the very basic and common ideas for which plastic can be used are listed below.
SOME GENERAL SOLUTIONS:
a) Bricks and composites
b) Road construction
f) Liquid fuel
These are some of the ways by which we can turn our waste to wealth but these are also not completely sufficient because some of them might require chemical recycling which again has its own environmental impact. Moving one step further we can adopt the practice of up cycling. Up cycling your plastic waste has many positive impacts on a personal level, community level, state level and also at a country level. It will also foster country’s socio-economic development.
SPECIFIC SOLUTIONS IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT:
1. Plastic bottle is one of the most commonly used and also found in huge number in trash items as a whole. Plastic bottle can be up cycled to make pen stand, decorative pieces or even a horizontal pot for planting a sapling. At personal level we can reduce the amount of trash, we can save our money by up cycling the bottle and if that bottle is used to plant a sapling then it will also help to purify the air we breathe. These are some of the indirect impacts which an individual can have but this can be scaled to boost community development and overall socio-economic development. For e.g. SwachhtaSuraksha Kendra, Ahmedabad; this is an environment-friendly organization and here the rag pickers earn their livelihood by sorting the waste and up cycle the plastic bottles into various usable items. This can be adopted by waste segregation centers as well as some NGOs to have a big impact.
2. Plastic bags, sheets and wrappers with multiple layers are also posing a danger to the planet so there is a solution for this problem too ;Aarohana Ecosocial Developments use the low value plastics like wrappers of gifts, biscuits, cookies, cereal , flour and detergent packets to make high-end products like wallets, vanity bags, tote bags, yoga bags, gym bags etc. The organization buys plastics from the waste pickers in Pune and Mumbai and artisans who work to make these beautiful products are majorly women and for the whole process, neither heat energy nor electricity is used, everything is done manually. More and more organizations can come up with this type of initiative in order to provide livelihood to people and also to use the low value plastic in the best way possible and stopping it from going to the landfills.
3. Another major component which is very harmful for ocean creatures especially is plastic straw. Straw is sometimes not needed but people will still use it because of sophistication symbol or obsession to plastic straw. These straws should also be converted into valuable product in order to save our marine diversity (and environment as a whole). In a country like India , plastic straws can be used at their best for making the baskets of different sizes which can be used by devotees for their daily Puja needs or any religious ritual for that matter. Organizations, startups or companies can run a campaign or launch project where they collect straws from housing societies, shops, restaurants, food stalls etc. and they can get reward in the form of coupons or gift vouchers in exchange of particular number of straws that they give. If this is done on large scale then we can stop a considerable amount of straws from going to the oceans and beaches.
In nutshell, it’s high time to rethink our waste instead of just sitting back and seeing our planet getting destroyed even though we have these types of simple solutions available.
Make a move to optimally utilize plastic waste as much as possible and contribute towards the healthier and sustainable future.
4. Toxicity alert! Know the 7 types of plastic and which is the MOST dangerous! | The Times of India – https://m.timesofindia.com/life-style/health-fitness/photo-stories/toxicity-alert-know-the-7-types-of-plastic-and-which-is-the-most-dangerous/photostory/64828668.cms