Ban on plastic: Bags and throwaways are an indulgence, but a guiltless dependence on straws will sink the planet

Saying no to plastic bags is like trying to rescue the Titanic with a leaking cup. A valiant effort is being made in India these days to alert people about the evils of using plastic, but it's doomed to utter failure unless individual citizens reciprocate the thought.

Which means us. We are at this juncture completely owned by plastic. The threat hasn't even registered yet. The bags are a minor element in themselves, more a symbol of the planet choking, and therefore, the first choice whenever there is a campaign to fight the menace. It's what is inside the bag that's equally disastrous and makes a mockery of the exercise.

Plastic straws take over 200 years to degenerate. Image courtesy: 1MillionWomen.com

Eight million tonnes of plastic straws enter our oceans every year. Courtesy: 1MillionWomen.com

Plastic is an intimate friend of ours, one with whom we interact every few hours. You, me, the kids, everybody is involved in this. Look around you in your house, and you will realise the extent to which plastic rules our lives. All jars and containers are wrapped in plastic. Toiletries, bath implements, tubs, mugs, even tablecloths and shower curtains are pure, thick plastic. Furniture is made of plastic. The packaging of medicines, even toothbrushes, toothpastes and razors come in the same material. Pipes, tubes, detergents, squeeze-me bottles, insulation, etc. All plastic. Even plastic comes wrapped in plastic. Our luggage at the airport is swathed for protection in reams of the stuff. Precious cargo will go into bubble wrap.

Plastic cups and plates and plastic throwaways are a sobering indulgence. The guiltless nature of our dependence on plastic will allow 1.1 trillion plastic bottles to be cast upon the water each year by 2021. But trumping all these is the one item we use without a second thought, an item in the top 10 contributors to the wrecking of the environment, especially marine life, with 45 percent aquatic birds ingesting and choking on plastic: Straws.

Yes, straws. That cylinder is poison, and we don't even think it matters as we fling millions of them away every day. The US itself consumes 500 million straws everyday. In Canada, playing on the word, there is a campaign called 'Straws suck'. Straws should replace plastic bags as the symbol of this war, like panda is the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund.

The straw is ruining our oceans. According to the One Million Women Society for Environmental Protection, all these straws go into the seas and remain there forever, taking a minimum of 200 years to degrade.

According to a 2018 report from environment awareness group Getgreennow, as many as a million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic every year.

Straws are one of the leading items picked up in beach clean up initiatives everywhere in the world. Experts have concluded that the biggest danger to the Earth and to ourselves comes from such single use plastic items. Your tablesheet may stay for months, but the pile of stuff we fling away after one just one use is higher than Mount Everest. In the US alone, daily consumption of straws can circle the Earth 2.5 times.

In India, we are yet to even register the plastic epidemic or the legacy we are creating for future generations. Plastic pens, credit cards, footwear, jewellery, ornaments, bric-a-brac, packaging materials, etc. add up to 40,000 tonnes of plastic produced every day, of which as much as 40 percent fails to get recycled and adds to the Earth's suffocation, says environmental-expert.com.

The Plastic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, are obligatory but no one takes them seriously. Rule 9 makes it compulsory for every manufacturer and recycler of plastic products to obtain registration from the State Pollution Control Board. Rule 10 states that no retailer can provide plastic bags free of cost. Sounds good, but who gives a hoot.

So if you are sitting there feeling smug about your non-plastic bag ways, and sipping coffee or a cold drink through a straw, just think: We need to stop using straws. Immediately. That is the first thing to do in the war we are losing.


Updated Date: Jun 23, 2018 13:37 PM

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