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World Environment Day 2018: India needs to make a collective effort to reduce plastic usage

Plastic products like polythene bags and pet bottles make up the largest portion of plastic wastes produced by humans and pose a great danger to marine and human life alike. Every year, 5 trillion plastic bags are used in the world; unbelievable right?

Written by Prajna Unnikkumarath | New Delhi |
Updated: June 5, 2018 1:13:00 pm
World Environment Day 2018, World Environment Day 2018 campaigns, World Environment Day 2018 cleanliness, World Environment Day 2018 plastic, World Environment Day single-use plastic, indian express, indian express news World Environment Day 2018: While plastic spoons, forks and plates may be cheaper, they come at a great cost for the environment. (Source: Getty Images)

Helmed by the United Nations and celebrated on June 5, World Environment Day 2018 is observed to create awareness about the environment. Ever since its inception in 1972, the campaign has laid great emphasis on the need for sustainable living in this age of indiscriminate waste production. As in the case of most awareness days, the World Environment Day celebrations are centred on a specific theme every year; and 2018’s theme is ‘Beat plastic pollution.’ The focus is on combating the use of single-use plastic across the world like polythene bags and pet bottles that make up the largest portion of plastic wastes produced by humans and pose a great danger to marine and human life alike. Studies show that around half of all plastic manufactured in the world are single-use products – every year, 5 trillion plastic bags are used in the world. Alarming, right?

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This year’s theme has great implications for India. With China banning the import of plastic wastes in a bid to curb pollution, India will become the next destination for foreign forces to dump their wastes. Considering India has close to non-existent means of managing plastic wastes, this would spell environmental hell for the country.

The world’s second largest country by population, India produces an estimated 25,000 tons of plastic waste a day. Jayakumar, executive director of Thiruvananthapuram based NGO, Thanal says, “One of the biggest problems India faces is that while we have adopted usage of plastics to a huge extent, we do not have the kind of regulatory mechanisms to manage the waste effectively.”

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But of late, India has been making active efforts to reduce plastic usage in the country. For instance, the ban on plastic bags have been enforced in 25 states and Union Territories in India; the effectiveness of this ban is questionable though, with plastics continuing to flow unchecked in these regions. Jayakumar continues, “One reason state governments are finding effective implementation difficult is because the Environment Protection Act has several limitations and loopholes plastic manufacturers use in their favour. More importantly, the component of citizens’ education is critical in managing and regulating plastic waste; they need to be brought up as citizens who are fit to use plastic responsibly. For this, awareness is not sufficient; everyone needs to be trained to manage plastic wastes.”

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One way the government can begin operations to clear oceans of plastics is to incentivize it. Jayakumar suggests, “For example, ships travelling to India should be asked to collect plastic wastes along the way, following which they would be rewarded in accordance with their collection. This is already in progress underway in Kollam and Alappuzha districts of Kerala on a small scale; but this needs to be mapped on to the state or national level. Next, the government should ensure that the producers of plastics are held accountable for it when they become wastes too.”

It is evident that citizens and the government need to work hand in hand for any environmental laws to succeed. Here are some ways to start small to reduce ecological footprint.

Carry cloth bags with you when you go shopping: This way, you make use of an environmental-friendly alternative by reducing the number of plastic bags used.

Reuse plastic bags: If you are already in possession of plastic bags, don’t throw them away after one use. Instead, take them with you when you go shopping. This way you would prevent more plastic waste to accumulate in your possession.

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Invest in reusable cutlery: While plastic spoons, forks and plates may be cheaper, they come at a great cost for the environment. Instead, buy a set of metal cutlery; they are reusable, long lasting and cheaper.

Reduce pre-packaged food purchases: Nearly all pre-packaged foods like biscuits, chips, etc. come packed in plastic. Instead, identify bakers and the ever popular “hot chips” stores near you and buy goods from them in reusable boxes. This way, you create a win-win situation – you save on money, you save the environment and you promote small businesses!

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