So, you probably know already that The Great Pacific garbage patch is now three times the size of France, up to 16 times bigger than previous estimates. You probably are aware that the billions of tons of microplastics in the ocean are destroying the marine life. Today, 90% of coastal birds have plastic in their digestive system. It is predicted that ceteris paribus, by 2050, the plastic in the ocean would supersede the marine life, by weight. Karma’s a you-know-what because eating these marine animals is now giving us cancer, infertility, impaired immunity, and other such horrendous conditions. Even if you are not dining on marine animals, thanks to leaching, the toxins from the plastics in the ocean are now in your groundwater as well. While its great that you have followed the WhatsApp forward, and replaced all your plastic containers with stainless steel, let’s understand why and how you need to say no to Single-Use Plastic Products.
What are Single-Use Plastic Products?
Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Straws, stirrers, earbuds, plastic cups and bags, soda/water bottles and the likes are common examples. It is incredible when you think about it – a product that you use for not more than 30 mins takes up to 450 years to disintegrate completely, once in the ocean.
Our consumption of Single-Use Plastic is out of control. We produce more than 300 million tons of plastic waste, half of which is disposable. Recycling efforts are overwhelmed by the size of this deposit. Every year, over 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean.
We are addicted to plastic. In a matter of under a century, humanity can’t figure out a way to live without this toxic product. We use takeaway cups, plastic food wrap, plastic water/soda bottles almost every day. Until recently, our usage of plastic bags was rampant and our disposal of it mindless.
Is there a Solution?
Well, the solution has to be multi-pronged. On the one hand, we need to figure out a way to clean the sea of the monumental waste that we have dumped in it already. On the other, we need to cut down our plastic use and disposal by a league to make the future sustainable.
UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter. But, the leading and most optimistic solution in the cleanup goal comes from a 23-year-old Dutchman. Boyan Slat got interested in finding a solution to the garbage patches of the oceans as a 16-year-old schoolboy. He solved the problem of the vast dispersion of plastic using the currents of the ocean to run into v-shaped screens. At 23 now, he is backed by Peter Thiel and Marc Benioff, his Ocean Clean Up Foundation employs more than 70 people and has around $30m (£23m) in funding.
The other part of the solution is in our hands. Large nations like India and China have the volume to make a huge positive dent on the issue by taking stringent state-backed action. Most Indian states have now banned the use of plastic bags, straws, or cups. But, the question is: Is there something we can do at our end?
Take the Plastic-Free Challenge
First, track your plastic footprint for a week. If you are looking for a tool to help you in this process, your search can end with the Happy Turtle Plastic Footprint Calculator. The tool measures your current footprint, with recommendations on how to reduce/control your plastic waste contribution.
The goal needs to be reducing the usage as close to zero as possible, dialing down from your benchmark, over six months to a year. Here are a few ways your plastic footprint can be controlled:
1. Stop buying water bottles. Carry your own thermos everywhere you go. Or else, just ask for a glass of filtered water.
2. Some apps like Zomato have started giving the option of asking for plastic cutlery-free food delivery. Always check that option.
3. Home-cook food as much as possible. Food delivery is one of the primary sources of disposable plastic in our day-to-day lives
4. Refuse or reduce using products in single-use plastic packaging. Grab a glass bottle of soda, instead of the plastic PET bottle. If you reduce usage, the industry would be forced to rethink packaging completely.
5. Try and make bulk purchases instead of mini units. Where possible, try and buy loose products instead of plastic wrapped ones. Hand-pick your tomatoes and put it in your canvas bag, instead of grabbing that plastic bag full.
6. Invest in compostable bin liners. It may seem like a steep price to pay for garbage disposal. But, remember, the payment for garbage management downstream is much higher and would definitely hurt your pocket and health directly or indirectly.
Edit as per advice from Richa Malik, Founder of The Happy Turtle:
Compostable bin liners are not a solution for the following reasons:
- There is no reverse logistics in India for them to reach industrial composting facilities and these bags are not home compostable. The standards they adhere to are ISO 17088 and ISO 14855 which are industry compostable standards mostly
- In home-composts, these liners never break down. In landfills, they are just as bad as the plastic
- The honest solution: no bin liners. For wet waste, use newspaper lining and a small bin that can be washed out daily. For dry waste, no liners are needed.
7. Switch to sustainable menstruation methods like reusable cloth sanitary pads, or menstrual cups, instead of plastic lined ones. The same applied to diapers – try and switch to the time-tested method of reusable cloth diapers for your little ones. It’s healthier for them too.
Get creative. If there are more ways in which you are striving towards the 2020 goal of Single-Use Plastic Free life, write to us about it. We would love to feature champions of the cause on our website!
Also read: The World is Drowning in Clothes
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