The sun beats down brutally this May morning, prodding me to hurriedly find a place to rest my blistering feet in. I step into the cool shade of an open eatery, just to the side of the road and ask for a large, iced glass of ‘nimboopani’. Greedily slurping each mouthful through a straw, my temperature drops down a few notches, and my eyes blinded by the glare are willing to open up again.
I look around, and see this plastic world around me. Shiny red tables, dancing balloons, trays, clean cutlery, a laminated menu and even the pictures framed on the walls, all are under the garb of some form of plastic. Well, it’s a public place, and I guess they really can’t cut down on their plastic dependence? I, on the other hand, am a contentious citizen, and actually care about the world. And just out of curiosity, I empty my bag on the table
Out fall my keychain, a comb, pens, a tiny sunscreen bottle, my cards, a carry bag and a small water bottle, all plastic. Plastic hoops in the ears, plastic clips to keep my unruly hair in place, plastic buttons on my shirt to keep me decent and even quirky plastic sandals on my feet. I am a walking, talking poster on plastic!
Apparently, I am not the only one pitching wholeheartedly into this worldwide malaise.
Every second, more than 15,000 plastic bottles are purchased; every minute a full garbage truck of plastic ends up in the ocean[i]; every hour so many plastic bags are consumed that if put one after another they can go around the world 7 times[ii]; And every year the amount of plastic produced is roughly the same as the entire weight of all of us humans put together![iii]
And to top it all, we callously discard nearly 50 % of the plastic after a single use; forgetting that this 15-second use plastic bag or straw will outlive our children, grandchildren and still be around for another 100 of years, atleast!
How did we not notice this unwavering march of plastic? Did the easy, convenient and versatile shine of a clean plastic object, blind us to its continuing deadly aftermath? And yes, there is a sordid end to all the plastic we casually use and so thoughtlessly discard, whether we understand it totally or not.
Not only does plastic pollute our oceans, kill marine life, but it has somehow managed to wriggle into our food chain itself. It is there in the oceans, in our food and now in our bodies. Toxic chemicals from some plastic throwaways leach into the soil, seeping and polluting our waterways and today we may even be breathing in micro-plastic particles laden with chemicals [iv].
Nobody is talking of a blanket ban on all plastics; they are irreplaceable in many places, occasions and instances. What we are talking about is saying a simple ‘no’ where we can. People did live plastic‘less’ lives before, and so can we. Every plastic straw not used, each plastic bag not carried for groceries, and all the plastic reused instead of being dumped unceremoniously after a single use, is that much less plastic to pollute our ocean and earth.
And to do that, we can take these tiny steps...
Watch yourself and your purchases diligently, refuse every single-use plastic offered to you in life , even when given as a freebie. And if you are part of an organization, do what we at GEAG do. Talk, discuss and share this knowledge with others. Encourage children and students, the citizens of tomorrow, to truly appreciate the downside of plastic use, just as we at GEAG have been doing regularly, continuously. Use community leverage to make authorities lay down stricter vigil and better enforcement of rules, instead of half-hearted lukewarm slogans and political posturing.
The time to do that is today, right now, and right here. Else, we may soon find that our ever-increasing plastic world is simply becoming bigger and bigger with no place for anything else; And the first ones to be ousted from this may just be us. Let us celebrate this World Environment Day, not just on June 5, but every single day, together, by simply saying ‘Goodbye’ to plastic.
This blog is in tune with the World Environment Day on June 5, 2018, for which India is the global host and which advocates” Beat Plastic Pollution” as the theme this year.