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World Environment Day 2018: Moving towards a plastic-free future

By Deepika
|

The production of plastic has outpaced almost every other material. The use of plastics is ever increasing in India and it poses a serious threat to marine life and the environment.

Dead fish float on the water of polluted Ranchi Lake, on Monday. PTI photo

World enviornment Day celebrated on June 5 every year is a platform for encouraging awareness and propagating the need for protecting the environment. And this year's theme for the World Environment Day 2018, "Beat Plastic Pollution".

The theme invites everyone to consider how they can make changes in their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife - and their own health. While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic - with severe environmental consequences.

The highlight of this year's World Environment Day is that India is the global host and it's celebrating by conducting beach clean-up drives.

India's first attempt at tackling the menace of plastic waste came in 2011 when the government notified the Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011. The policy sought to disincentivise the use of poly bags by setting up a pricing mechanism for them and also to establish rules for recycling by local authorities.

The Rules were replaced with a stronger Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016. The new rules gave emphasis on a complete ban on plastics below 50 microns, phasing out use of multi-layered packaging and introducing extended producer responsibility (EPR) for producers, importers and brand owners to ensure environmentally sound management of plastic products until the end of their live s.

Over the past two decades, 25 of the 29 states and several Union Territories have tried to regulate the use of plastics

In 2018, the Environment Ministry in a new notification amended the rules of plastic waste management, and suggested the phasing-out of multi-layered plastics (MLP), the shiny plastic material which is used to package chips, biscuit and ready-to-eat food products. MLPs are non-recyclable, non-energy recoverable, and have no alternative uses, and are hence a critical threat to the ecosystem.

While the government has claimed several times that it wants to shut down all small and illegal plastic producing plants, the amendment to the rules seems to dilute this as well.

Referring to a latest report of the CPCB, it said the manufacturing, sale and stocking of carry bags of less than 50 microns has continued in "majority of the states/UTs" post-ban. It noted that the effective implementation of ban on these plastic carry bags has been a challenge as hawkers and vegetable markets prefer its use due to "cheaper price and continued local manufacturing".

So, do we have solutions?

The solution to India's problems would require vision, political will and the nerve to pull off a balancing act. Here are the five simple tips to get yourselves involved in making India- a plastic free country

Opt for cotton bags

About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If you're already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you're on the right track, but if you're still using plastic produce bags, it's time to make a change. Purchase some reusable produce bags and help keep even more plastic out of the landfill.

Get rid of bottled watershed

Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, and these bottles require 47 millions gallons of oil to produce, according to Food & Water Watch. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you'll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans - but don't stop there.

Recycle everything

Try and select items that come in non-plastic recycled and recyclable packaging, to do your best to properly handle items that can't be reused. Check everything before you put it in the trash, as more and more items are able to be recycled these days.

Government Policies

The government can play its role by banning the manufacture of such plastic bags and putting in place policies that promote a clean environment. Thick bags that do not tear easily are expensive and that will encourage people to reuse them. Companies can be compelled to adhere to certain standards failure to which there would be penalties.

Community Education

Knowledge is power. A person is more likely to conserve the environment when he or she is made aware of the dangers of not doing so. Educating people about the effects of plastic pollution and ways in which it can be prevented or controlled is a step in the right direction because it raises awareness

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