Plastic usage and Environment


Plastic usage and Environment

Dr Sanjay O' Neill Shaw | June 05, 2018 19:13 hrs

Environment is the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal or plant lives. Human activities are playing a major role in polluting our environment thus contributing to climate change. Climate change has impacts on natural resources, economic activities, food security, human health and physical infrastructure. Climate has shown warming of 0.89 [0.69 to 1.08] °C over the period 1901–2012 which is mainly attributed to anthropogenic activities (IPCC 2013). India is one of the countries which are also affected by climate change worldwide; this includes northeast India. The threat is greater in communities and areas where people’s lives and livelihoods are highly dependent on natural resources. Climate variability and climate change could impact agriculture, water resources and forest sector in our northeast region. Human activities are a major reason for damaging our environment. So, care for our environment has become a necessity.


The United Nations Environment Programme is the principal global environmental authority that sets global environmental agenda. It serves as an authoritative promoter for the global environment. In order to create awareness among general masses, “World Environment Day” is observed every year on 5th June. This day is celebrated to raise awareness among people globally to take optimistic action to save the environment as also to stimulate awareness of the same and enhance political attention and public action. Communities and individuals around the world join hands to raise awareness about the importance of conserving the environment. Environmental issues are raised and people are urged to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development.


This year, India will be hosting the global World Environment Day celebrations. There is a need to shift to low carbon economy by all nations around the world. Great effort is needed to reduce its use and enhance its recycle process. It is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action which seeks to make the biggest global call and mobilization for action. This year the theme is “Beat Plastic Pollution.” The world is coming together to combat single-use plastic pollution. Single-use plastic is contributing a lot towards environmental pollution. People should be made to connect with nature and plastic has become a great hindrance. Plastics are generally useful in our day-to-day life – almost a necessity. But at the same time they are harmful, especially for the environment. Once plastics are used, they are littered around. Even beautiful and clean tourist spots are not spared. Several tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the sea which is damaging the aquatic environment by poisoning fishes, birds and other sea creatures. A new study has revealed that human activities have affected even the deepest parts of the oceans, more than 1,000 kilometers from the mainland. It has also been found that single-use plastic has reached the world’s deepest ocean trench - Mariana Trench where a plastic bag has been found 10,898 metres below sea surface. Tiny plastic particles are polluting soil. Many aquatic and land animals are consuming plastics with foods and this results in their death. About 500 billion plastic bags are used annually worldwide, every year not less than 8 million tonnes of plastic wastes are dumped into oceans. The production of plastic during the last decade was more than that produced in the last century.


One of the best solutions to reduce the use of plastic is to refuse to accept plastic items if we can’t reuse it. If plastic is recycled, about 88% energy is saved in comparison to production of new plastic. One tonne of recycled plastic saves 1000-2000 gallons of gasoline. People should realize the ill-effects of plastic on the environment which is irreversible. Littering of plastic in places like land, waterways and oceans should be stopped immediately. Trash dumps and landfills are major problems as they allow pollutants to enter the ground and affect groundwater as well as flora and fauna. Encouragement should be given for reuse and recycling of plastic. One of the greatest menaces of plastic is that it is upsetting the food chain. Tiniest organisms are being affected by the toxicity of plastic by its ingestion. Larger animals that depend on them for food also get poisoned. Thus, the entire food chain is getting affected. Though plastic has multifarious uses it is becoming a great threat to environment at the same time.


In order to reduce the threat of plastic, immediate steps should be taken to save our future. Use of disposable plastic products should be avoided as far as possible. People should take responsibility to reduce the use of plastics and also speak freely to educate and encourage others to reduce the use of plastics. People should be made so aware about the impending problems due to plastics that they should start thinking twice before discarding plastic materials as trash. Everybody should have the ability to understand the impact of plastic on nature and only then positive steps can be taken to combat the menace. Once appropriate steps are taken against uncontrolled use of plastic, it will be a great contribution of mankind to save the environment.


(Dr Sanjay O’Neill Shaw is the Deputy Director General of Meteorology, Regional Meteorological Centre, LGBI Airport, Borjhar)

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