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The Global Crisis Of Plastic Pollution And What Are The Ways To Curb It

The discovery of plastic, which was considered a boon initially, has eventually become a curse

Last year, a team of scientists from Malaysia and France found pieces of plastic in bodies of fish such as mackerels, mullets, and croakers. The group of scientists further warned that plastics attract toxins (through adsorption, or surface absorption) which can ultimately get released if they are consumed. Microplastics are sized between 5mm to 10 nanometers and are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment facilities. So, even if the drain where it ultimately flows is treated, these microplastics nevertheless get sifted to the water bodies. And you might be surprised to know that they are not only a byproduct of industrial processes, but are also present in your toothpaste, face scrub, cosmetics, and potentially your clothing!

The discovery of plastic, which was considered a boon initially, has eventually become a curse. This assertion is a now-ubiquitous reality that shouts to us every time we move our glance on the squillion bits of the plastic waste irrespective of where we are – empty lands, shopping centers, railway stations, and even in the middle of the ocean. Everything points towards one thing and one thing only, that something needs to be done, and it needs to be done right now!

So, here are a few steps that all of us can follow to curb the plastic pollution around us and pave the ground for a cleaner and greener future:

Accept plastic: This step is quite surprising and is still something that needs to be done at the very onset. Accept your plastic usage. As the realities stand to be, you cannot completely avoid plastic. It comes along with the clothes that you buy, is in the gadgets that you purchase, appliances that you use, and even in the packaging of your nearest eatery. Plastic’s general use, today, is so extensive that you realistically cannot circumvent it. So, first accept the fact that you’re going to use plastic. Once this is done, find out ways in which you can prevent this usage, minimize it, and make certain that when used, it ultimately goes to the recycling center and not on the streets that you or someone else is going to walk on.

Now, prevent plastic usage: Avoid the usage of plastic as much as possible. For instance, if you plan to buy anything on your way back from office, say groceries, check if you can manage to buy them without using polythene. If your office bag has enough space to accommodate it (obviously, without damaging either what you’ve bought or what’s inside the bag), ask the vendor to give it without polythene. Though paper bags must also be avoided, ask for them instead of polythene when needed.

Take your own carry bag with you: Whenever you’re out for shopping, make sure that you carry a shopping bag along with you (take two if your list is quite enormous). Plan your shopping such that it minimizes plastic usage. For instance, if you have to buy everything from fruits and vegetables, and groceries to hard goods such as cutleries, buy cutleries first, groceries later, and then fruits, vegetables. You’ll see that you don’t need plastic bags if you place items in your bag in an efficient manner (which is, hard goods go towards the base and soft products such as vegetables towards the upper section). Do your own mix and match according to the shopping list and convenience and only ask for a polybag if something really cannot be accommodated.

Reusable water bottles: The need of water or fluid can anytime be felt by the body, especially in the scorching heat of summers. However, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study has shown that a 2-liter plastic bottle of mineral water has a similar carbon footprint in a year as that of a car driven for 500 miles. This figure makes it clear that buying and disposing off plastic water bottles has a deep impact on the planet, and we must avoid doing so at all costs. Even at home, it is more appropriate to switch to glass bottles for storing and serving water, rather than their plastic versions.

“Recycle! Recycle! Recycle!”: You might have heard this time and again, and yet would’ve ignored it without being aware. We have to ingrain the habit of recycling and look for every possible way to ensure that the plastic that we use gets recycled, and does not end up in the nearest landfill. Do not put your plastic along with your other household waste. Keep a separate bin for plastic bottles, packaging, etc., and recycle this plastic waste to the extent feasible.

Avoid Microplastics: Microplastics, with their sources ranging from cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes, are sinking into the water bodies only to be consumed by aquatic animals. Look for ingredients such as ‘microbeads’, ‘polypropylene’, or ‘polyethylene’, in the products that you’re buying, including your toothpaste.

Support eco-sensitive businesses: If you connect all dots, you’ll find that the broader change can only come if the business community readily commits to it. Keep a close eye on the businesses that are eco-sensitive and extend your support if you find any.

Science and technology is making us increasingly intelligent and with intelligence, humanity is becoming more powerful than it ever has been before. But as someone has said, with great power, comes great responsibility. So, we must not ignore the responsibilities that we have towards the environment that we have constantly been using (and often defacing) for our own convenience. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Advait Kumar

The author is the Co-founder at Swajal, India’s leading IoT-based public water purification company.

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