It was in 1907 when chemist Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the first real synthetic plastic. It was then a boon to mankind as it later was used in many fields like transport, agriculture, healthcare, electronics etc. But it became a matter of concern when plastic debris was first discovered in ocean in 1960’s and early 1970’s, and it built a sense of consciousness among some experts which lead to a thought of recycling plastics.
Plastic waste in India
India produces about 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste everyday which is why it stands as the world’s 15th biggest plastic polluter. Plastic accounts for about 8% of the total solid waste generated in the country and the waste generated by some cities is shown above. The plastics produced most are thermoplastic (94%) or recyclable plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) among which only up to 7-9% is recycled and the other plastic is just dumped. The plastic waste management rules 2016, notified by the centre called for a ban on “non-recyclable and multi-layered” packaging by March 2018 and a ban on carry bags of thickness less than 50 microns (as they cannot be recycled and pose a higher threat to the environment).
Plastics which was dumped a long time ago has paved its way into our oceans causing harm to marine life. Oceans produce more percentage of oxygen than trees and it is depleting due to various reasons one of which is plastic in the waters. Scientists have found 238 tonnes of plastic that has washed on the shores of remote Indian ocean Islands, choking them.
Also, as we know not all plastics that say as recyclable can be recycled because they are either contaminated with food waste or are not collected on whole for recycling. Anand Arya, a Delhi-based environmentalist says that “The various laws enacted failed due to lack of people’s will. Until citizens are themselves aware and take a pledge to avoid plastic use, no law can be effective”. There have been initiatives that strive to work efficiently, some airports have completely banned single use plastics like Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chennai, Dehradun, Goa, Imphal, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Madurai, Port Blair, Raipur, Srinagar, Trivandrum, and many more. The city of Chhattisgarh became first in the country to start garbage café where poor and homeless are served food in lieu of plastic waste. Even today there is some uneasiness observed among shoppers who are refused a plastic bag and everybody just say “ek se kya hi hoga” (what harm can one plastic bag cause).
Man made plastic to ease his work but did not realise that its mass production could damage his environment to such an extent. It is a weapon that he is aware will destruct his natural resources but does very little to reduce its harmful effects. We still have a long journey to travel to recycle maximum amount of plastic and restore the damage caused by plastics. A target has been set to completely be free from single use plastics by 2022 and it is possible when each and every person residing in the country do their share.