India is home to more than 133 crore human beings. Every day, we go on about our lives without giving any attention to the amount of plastic we use. From asking for a plastic bag from your local vegetable and fruit vendor to throwing away used plastic bottles and wrappers of chocolates or chips or namkeen, we have done it all. Have you ever wondered how long it takes for plastic to decompose? What about everyday essentials like diapers and styrofoam cups? Well, we have some answers.
What are single-use plastic products?
Recently, the Indian government has declared that starting from October 2, India is planning to ban single-use plastic items. So, it is important to understand what products are considered under this term. In simple terms, single-use plastic or disposable plastic is the kind of plastic or plastic product that is used only one time before it is thrown away.
What is included in single-use plastic products?
It will be difficult to come up with a list of all single-use plastic products but here are some that are commonly used:
- Plastic Bags
- Coffee Stirrers
- Soda Bottles
- Water Bottles
- Plastic Packaging
- Plastic Sachets
- Cotton buds
- Sanitary Napkins
Out of these, plastic bottles can take up to 450 years to decompose. These single-use plastic products that we throw away before thinking twice will survive all natural calamities and will be here long after you are gone.
Worldwide, only 10 to 13% plastic products are recycled and as a planet, we produce 300 million tons of plastic each year. When it comes to plastic waste, petroleum based plastic is hardest to recycle as it is not biodegradable. This kind of plastic usually gets carried away and gets buried in landfills or it goes into the oceans where it endangers various animals who consume this plastic or get suffocated by it. Over the years, this kind of plastic will not biodegrade and turn into soil but it will turn into tiny particles of plastic and in the process, release toxic chemicals that will find a way into our water and food and finally to our bloodstreams. The future is here and plastic is disrupting our endocrine system, causing life threatening and life altering diseases like cancer, impaired immunity, birth defects, infertility, etc. (Source: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033, http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/what-is-single-use-plastic)
What Can We Do?
India, as a country, is taking firm steps to ban single-use plastic products. By October 2, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India plans to “say good-bye” to single-use plastic products. Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadker in a briefing said: “…Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t say ‘ban’, but said ‘goodbye’ to single-use plastic waste. From October 2, we will begin an attempt to collect all that waste. Nearly 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste remains uncollected.” (Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/is-india-likely-to-ban-single-use-plastics-soon/article29418809.ece) As an individual, there are a lot of things that one can do to reduce the risk of single-use plastic like carrying a cloth bag when going shopping, always carrying reusable water bottle wherever you go, try and be aware of all the plastic around you and slowly switch to biodegradable options like bamboo toothbrushes, glass containers, menstrual cups, etc The problem of single-use plastic is one that the entire planet faces and has to battle it together. It is high time that as an individual, we take responsibility for our actions and choose what kind of legacy we want to leave behind – one that saved the planet or one that destroyed it and is still here long after we are gone – the choice is entirely ours.