On World Environment Day, June 5th the Hon'ble Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, pledged to do away with single-use plastics in his life. He also urged the citizens to take up green initiatives, while avoiding the use of plastics.
The Minister made his plea at the World Environment Day 2018 summit hosted by India and attended by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and Erik Solheim, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Head of UN Environment. The theme for the year's World Environment Day is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, aimed to bring people together to combat the use of single-use plastics. On this occasion, India also pledged to altogether ban the use of single-use plastic by the year 2022.
On the occasion, India also pledged to altogether ban the use of single-use plastic by the year 2022. Although an ambitious goal, it is not impossible. India already is seeing some of the highest rates of recycling in the world, recycling up to 90% of our plastic bottle waste, more than Europe and Japan. The country has also been a leader in combating climate change and making the shift towards a low carbon economy.
So, why is there an all-out attack on plastics now, and just what are ‘single-use’ plastics? According to the UN, every year we consume up to 5 trillion plastic bags and around 13 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic also makes up around 10% of all the waste that is generated. Single-use plastics are any disposable plastics objects that are usually discarded after one use. Examples include polyethene bags, plastic water bottles, packaging material, straws, earbuds, and even medical equipment like syringes.
Microplastics—small pieces of plastic around 5 millimeters in diameter—are another form of hazardous plastic extensively used in cosmetics and medical industries, which seep into water bodies becoming invisible pollutants. In recent times, accumulation of plastic waste in the ocean has led to alarm bells ringing in many countries, as marine life succumbs to the intrusion. An example is of the recent news of a Pilot whale that died off the coast of Thailand, found to have consumed close to 80 plastic bags which had clogged up its digestive organs, leading to its death.
As responsible citizens, the onus is on us to take the right step in the judicious use of plastics and replace single-use plastics with sustainable alternatives that can save the planet for the future. As the Minister put it, “If each and every one of us does at least one green good deed daily towards our Green Social Responsibility, there will be billions of green good deeds daily on the planet.” So, it’s time for the day’s ‘green good deed’!