Thursday, June 8, 2023
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Int’l Plastic Bag Free Day: A Hazardous Chemical Nuisance to Environment

By Mool Raj

“The immediate solution to this serious problem is to ensure each individual takes a vow not to use plastic, including recyclable reusable bags instead they should use cotton bags for the package, carriage, and storage.”
The International plastic bag free day is celebrated every year on the 3 rd of July globally. This day is dedicated to disseminating public awareness about the very real and pressing issue of plastic pollution of the environment. The accumulation of plastic and products made of plastic in the environment lead to plastic pollution which imposes a hazardous effect on the entire environment that including land-living, marine, and wildlife. Not only plastic bags but also other plastic materials like straws, coffee stirrers, soda, water bottles, and food packaging posed more threats to our ecosystem. As per the reports, India produces roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable! World-wide only 10-13% of plastic items are recycled.
Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean. Although plastic will not biodegrade (decompose into a natural substance like soil,) it will degrade (break down) into tiny particles after many years. In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic) which make their way into our food and water supply. These toxic chemicals are now being found in our bloodstream and the latest research has found them to disrupt the Endocrine system which can cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity, and many other ailments.The severity of the problem is so high that the highest judiciary authority of India is also equally concerned with the issue. Observing its anxiety, the Supreme Court of India in 2013 said, “Plastic waste is a time bomb ticking for India”. It also remarked on the abysmal ways of the waste disposal system saying, “We have a habit of collecting garbage from cities and dumping them in villages”. This statement shows the magnitude of the problem and how important it is to address it on a priority basis. Now, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Government of India unveiled a set of draft rules that propose to ban single-use plastic items in three stages starting from this year and culminating in mid-2022.In the first stage, it is proposed to increase the thickness of polybags from 60 microns to 120 microns from September 30 this year. Polybags with less than 60 or 120 microns thickness are banned in the country. The second stage, starting from January 1, 2022, includes the ban on sales, manufacture, usage, and import and distribution of six categories of single-use plastic, including ear-buds with plastic sticks, plastic flags, ice-cream sticks, plastic sticks for balloons, polystyrene (Thermocol) for decoration. The list of banned items will be increased in the third stage, starting from July 1, 2022. This will include plastic plates, glasses, cutlery (plastic forks, spoons, knives, trays), packaging films from sweet boxes, invitation cards, cigarette packets, plastic/PVC banners less than 100 microns, and stirrers. Thermoplastic will also fall under the ambit of rules.

It is a continuous process on the part of any government to frame laws or policies for the betterment of the society as a whole but what concerns the most is the implementation of those laws and policies. Based on my previous experience and day-to-day observation, it is quite disheartening to see such policies and drafts remain more verbal than pragmatic. If we are sincere to curb this menace, we, both the government and the public have to adopt a pragmatic approach. It is the responsibility of the government to provide alternative materials to it. For a better and more viable alternative, our research institution can play a pivotal role to come up with an alternative form of material.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar with Engineers for Sustainable Energy Solutions (ESES), Kentucky, and the United States of America on the 7th of June 2021 aiming to curb plastic pollution is a very welcoming development in this regard. Till the government implements the 3 rd stage policy or the research institution will find some substantive solution to the problem, we as members of this society can’t turn a blind eye because each individual contributes significantly to plastic consumption on the farm or the other. Therefore, one of the easiest solutions is to create awareness of the magnitude of the problem, and its threat to our environment and disseminate information on alternate modes of packaging and carrying goods. The immediate solution to this serious problem is to ensure each individual takes a vow not to use plastic, including recyclable reusable bags instead they should use cotton bags for the package, carriage, and storage.

(The writer is a Evs.Lect.Govt.Hr.Sec.School Khellani Doda)

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