Sometime back there was a news report which said that a huge whale was washed ashore dead near Kent Beach in the UK. Such reports are becoming more and more common nowadays. I started thinking. Before the gleaming supermarkets and mega malls came up handing over all items in shining plastic bags what did we do? We carried cloth bags and wicker baskets to the market place to collect the vegetables and groceries that we bought. Our parents and their parents followed this method. Life was a lot peaceful. Earth too returned the favor by ensuring that everything was quiet in nature. True they might not have led a life of ease and comfort but they had something more precious, peace and quiet. Nothing was used and thrown, things were reused.
And then of course came the use and throw culture which we are all only too familiar. Convenience at the cost of environment took over. We could just go without planning to buy anything, so did not have to carry any bag with us. And then if something caught our fancy, the obliging shop keeper could always give it to us wrapped in a huge plastic cover which was anyway used by us to put all the waste and oosh, we could just throw it into the garbage dump.
Which brings us to the next point? What happens if all the garbage bags started piling up in the dumps? These land refills have started eating into our urban spaces and now we are choking, literally in our own dirt. This has become a major problem in all the cities of the world especially in the developing countries. We need to act before it is too late.
Why is plastic harmful? Why are they harmful to the environment? Let us find out why-
Studies have shown that Plastic takes 1000 years to decompose into smaller pieces. These then seep down into the soil and release chemicals, which eventually reach the water supply or the underground water tables.
On land, cattle roaming on the streets eat this plastic mistaking it to be fodder and die painful excruciating deaths. Also, this waste builds up in landfills and we have mounds of garbage as no one knows how to dispose them. At sea, juice cans and cola bottles and plastic covers thrown carelessly into the waters by reckless beachgoers kill animals in the water when they eat plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish.
Manufacturing of plastic bags is harmful to the environment because nonrenewable resources are used (petroleum and natural gas). The manufacturing process itself uses toxic chemicals, pollutes the atmosphere and consumes energy. Also transportation of the billions of plastic bags from the industries to various places means further energy consumption, largely in the form of more petrol and diesel.
Before the problem becomes any worse I think we should move in and act swiftly. Already it is too late but let us wake up atleast now. We can prevent it if all of us come together and act for the sake of our mother earth. Shopkeepers should first be enlisted into the campaign. They should politely stop giving plastic bags and hang notice boards all over the shops asking customers to bring in their own cloth or jute bags. Of course in some places shopkeepers charge for the bags but that is nominal and people do not mind spending on it so it will still encourage the use of plastic bags. We must ensure zero tolerance. Shopkeepers can give away cloth bags for a nominal price.
Another group which can play an important role is the restaurant owners. Disposable, plastic plates and cutlery should be discouraged. If customers want takeaways they can bring their own containers. In recent times, many high profile people in India plan eco friendly weddings and events where they use leaf plates and steel cutlery. Bouquets are wrapped not using fancy plastic streamers, covers and ribbons but using colorful leaves. These people show the way that we can help the environment in our own small way.
While going through various research papers about plastic, I found that we can reuse plastic bottles to build small huts and houses for the under privileged ones. It does the job of bricks and can hold cement or other binding agent for the house. The life of such houses are also long enough as the plastic itself takes years to decompose.
If citizens come together, then we can be the change that we want to see in others.