Lessening The Plastic Peril

Saturday, 16 January 2021



Lessening The Plastic Peril

Swapnil Bharali | October 05, 2019 12:35 hrs

I recall an endearing television commercial from the good old Doordarshan days by Steel Authority of India Ltd which showed the magic of steel through the perspective of a school boy and how it is all-pervasive. Ever since however, it is plastic that has taken over and when it comes to packaging today, nothing can beat the utility that plastic offers. Industries have grown around plastic from which people by the millions feed themselves and thereby live.

Creating a brouhaha over banning single-use plastic and adding the mega fanfare around it on the crucial date of Gandhi Jayanti was, I thought, a really hasty decision by the central government simply because it had not identified a material that would adequately replace plastic by providing the same utility and yet be bio-degradable. Such a material simply does not exist today and so there is all the plastic in all our lives. From the pen to the carry bags, plastic is something we cannot do without. And so, shelving the decision to ban plastic is, for the moment, the right one.
But what has indeed served the purpose of the government’s ‘ban plastic’ message is the awareness that has been created because this message, relayed over all sorts of media tenaciously over the last several days, has had a great impact. Discussions in social forums today centre around lessening usage of plastic and this is something that can surely be done without too much fuss. 

As an example, banning a vegetable vendor from packing a customer’s purchase in a plastic carry bag would force the customer to either carry his own shopping bag or reuse a plastic bag that he might be having from his earlier shopping. Similarly, for all other ‘wet purchases’ that could include fish and meat. On the other hand, strict enforcement of disposal of garbage in 50 micron plastic bags only should be attempted by the government and achieved within a reasonable deadline. The other single-use plastic items identified by the government can be replaced I believe and some thoughtful attempts will be enough for the needful to be done.

Plastic is here to stay; its utility is too great. However, it is up to humans to understand the perils plastic brings and lessening its usage to the extent possible would be a good start. On this note, here’s wishing a Happy Puja!

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