Beating plastic pollution

The plastic crisis is more urgent than we understand. According to estimates, every year more than eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans. The problem is so severe that if today’s situation remains unchanged, by 2050 there would be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Up to one million sea birds, 100,000 sea animals, marine turtles and countless fish die due to plastic waste every year.

Plastic is ubiquitous today; it is used for various purposes globally – in agriculture (3.3 per cent), electronics (5.8 per cent), automobiles (8.9 per cent), building and construction (19.7 per cent), consumer and households goods, furniture, sports, health, safety (22.4 per cent) and packaging (39.9 per cent).

Plastic pollution is affecting our food chain and jeopardising the ecosystems. In light of the menace of the plastics, World Environment Day was recently observed with the theme “Beat Plastic Pollution” recently. But the day to beat plastic pollution, as a matter of fact, is every day. We need concerted efforts from all levels – individual, organisation and government – to beat plastic pollution. Plastics have emerged as a real threat to humankind.

So what we can do? The best way to follow is: If you can’t reuse it, refuse it. We must change our daily activities and behaviours. For example, while going for dinner or lunch or breakfast or for coffee, we can carry our own plates or mugs ourselves. This may sound a bit weird, but this method is being practised in some western countries.

Similarly, going for grocery shopping, we must make a habit of carrying our own cloth, jute or paper-made bags. There is a general tendency among the general public of throwing plastic bags and other items made up of plastics haphazardly. We must put pressure on governments and concerned agencies to fix certain areas where plastics have to be disposed of. These are the efforts we can make at an individual level. Besides this, the government, in coordination with the UN, national and international organisations and other various agencies working to combat plastic pollution, has to take immediate steps to manage the waste created by plastics.

We have been polluting the world with plastics for many years, so it will be wrong to expect that we will be able to beat plastic pollution within days or years. Nonetheless, if we do not start today, we will never be able to beat plastic pollution.