On June 05, we are celebrating World Environment Day, 2018, with the theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution”. India has been chosen this year’s edition of World Environment Day which will focus on spreading awareness and urges government, industries, communities and individual to take urgent action for reducing the production and excessive use of single-use plastic.

Garbage heapAccording to UN estimates, every year the world uses 500 billion plastic bags and half of it is single-use.

We Indian alone generates about 15,342 tons of plastic waste per day (TPD), out of this, 6,000 tonnes of waste remain uncollected and littered. Based on the non-biodegradable nature of plastic it is difficult to recycle and it takes thousands of years for decay.

In March 2016, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India, Notified Plastic Waste Management Rules. The rule regulates manufacture, sale, distribution and use of plastic carry bags including those of compostable plastic and plastic sheets for packaging or wrapping applications. The Rule advocate for banning plastic bag less than 50 microns thickness, extending the jurisdiction to the rural area and also lays the foundation for accountability to producers and generators. Some central and state government has already adopted directives to restrict or ban the use of plastic bags in recent years. 

questions markHere the question arises, despite the Government’s attempts to manage plastic waste, why the plastic waste management continues to be a big problem. The problem is uncontrolled production, improper disposal, inadequate infrastructure for segregation and collection, improper enforcement of legislation and lack of public actions. These issues coupled with over-consumption and unsustainable behavioural practices of each of us creating a hazard to the environment. So the onus of beating plastic pollution is not only on the State but also has the duty of each and every individual of the society.

The role of civil society plays important role in getting involved with the public, government, special interest groups, academia, innovators and individuals in beating plastic pollution. At the organization level, several policies such as banning the use of single-use plastic or get rid of bottled water can be the first step to contribute to beating the plastic pollution. Another important aspect while talking about waste is, we forget to visualize the role of waste picker’s army. Though, they sustain themselves by collecting, sorting and segregating waste but works without any job security, salary or dignity. Not just that, they are regularly exposed to cuts, infection, respiratory diseases and tuberculosis apart from poverty, humiliation, harassment, and sexual abuse on the streets.  Here are a few steps the Civil Society can promote to contribute towards the Global goal of beating plastic pollution.

Waste collection, Rules and Recycle

While plastic waste is a huge problem to manage in one hand it provides an opportunity to innovate on another hand. Here is some innovative use of plastic water bottles tried several parts of the world:

Vertical garden made from recycled PET bottles

A vertical garden made from recycled PET bottles

Solar light bulb – an innovative technique to harvest day sun light at home

Solar light bulb – an innovative technique to harvest day sunlight at home

Sprinkler from 2 liter water bottle

Sprinkler from 2-liter water bottle

Zero-power cooling, with plastic

Zero-power cooling, with plastic

Reinforcing the long made points, because it is important:

  • Use Eco-Friendly or Biodegradable Bags
  • Source segregation at an individual or household level
  • Consume and throwing away less
  • Recognize the use of waste picker army, set up a plastic collection and recycle unit at each Mohalla/locality
  • Recycle old materials for waste reduction
  • Get Rid of Bottled Water
  • Provide proper information about it to the people around
  • Engages with states, individuals, academia, industry in terms of the entire dimension of plastic
  • Speak to local authorizes (PRI/Urban Local bodies) for implementation of Plastic Waste Management Rules
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Support ban and support organization/groups addressing plastic pollution

Overall, an integrated approach would be required for beating plastic pollution including spreading awareness on the criticality of the issue, taking urgent actions and involve the waste pickers in such a way so that their livelihood and dignity can be upheld.

Indo-Global Social Service Society invites you for sharing your innovative idea or your actions to reduce or alternatives of the single-use plastic.

By: Dr Gayatri Mahar, Manager- Climate Change