Since the beginning of time when man felt the requirement for storing food, the technology of packaging of food emerged. With the progress of civilization, this concept of storing food developed to a great extent. For food packaging, the use of metal containers has been the first choice however with the development of science and technology, alternatives to steel, like plastic emerged to replace traditional methods with a method that requires low cost with an increase in utility. The development of plastic increased tremendously in the last thirty years because wood was not available in adequate quantities and materials like steel and glass were either very expensive or were not readily available. Because of its unique combination of properties, the global consumption of plastic had gone up from 154 metric tonnes in 2000 to 183.5 million metric tonnes in 2003. By 2022, the expected global demand of plastic will be over 540 million tonnes with an overall growth of 6% in the next few years. There are various factors that drive growth in plastic packaging materials for products. These are:
- High polymer manufacturing capacity in the country
- Availability of a wide range of materials
- Changes in lifestyle of people
- The entry of multinational companies
- Shift from bulk to smaller packs
However, due to an increase in awareness about Plastic and it’s effect on humans and animals, many authorities condemned the use of plastic. Chemicals added to plastic are absorbed by humans in their bodies and some of these compounds alter hormones or have potential health effects. Plastic that is buried deep in landfills can leak harmful chemicals that spread in groundwater which is later consumed by us. Floating plastic waste which has the potential of surviving thousands of years in water disrupts habitats of marine animals. There are multiple ways in which plastic harms us and the ecosystem and that is the reason why governments of countries all over the world are trying to work on finding alternatives to plastic.
So with the intention of making the state of Tamil Nadu plastic-free, the Government of the state has issued interests regarding the ban of plastic and it’s used in primary food packaging. The notification was issued on World Environment Day (June 5) and it stated that plastic that constitutes a central part of the packaging of goods is in no way exempted from this ban. On the order of the State government, the authorities will work on exploring alternatives hand in hand with the Central Institute Of Plastic Engineering and Technology. According to some reports, the alternative material that will be used for packaging is required to be compostable plastic which needs to be approved by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
However, concerns are rising regarding the complete abandonment of plastic from various sectors. The notification is definitely in favor of the nature and well-being of the society but it is important to accept and understand that even medical equipment are packed in plastic materials and therefore complete ban and an immediate alternative is not possible. However, a recent alternative for minimizing the use of plastic bottles has been decided by Delhi authorities. According to these authorities, aluminum is a good and natural choice for packaging since it does not lead to heaps of landfills and is 70% more recyclable than glass and plastic. Also, it does not affect the freshness of water even when it’s composed of light or heat and the water continues to be fresh and cold.
Nature is a good source of all important nutrients that are available to us free of cost. That is why it is our responsibility to keep it safe. The State and Union governments are constantly struggling for devising guidelines that will help in reducing the use of Plastic. Being responsible citizens of this country, it is our duty to adopt alternatives that are available to us.