June 05, 2018

#OpenNTalk of a plastic-free world

Every year, the United Nations celebrates 5th June to commemorate our relationship with the environment and make us aware of where we are heading with it.
As a child, I remember planting a sapling on this day each year. It was a kind of school tradition, an extra curricular activity to help us understand that the planet was our friend, and that it was alright to get our hands dirty if it meant saving a friend. 
But what we didn't know then was that we were actually saving ourselves. Then growing up happened, and friendships got neglected. And the one relationship that suffered most was the silent one, the one that we had started to ignore slowly but surely. But the planet watched quietly, hoping we'd change, praying we'd realise on our own someday how we have been treating it, suffering, hurting, but still hoping...

Days change into years, and we don't change. We have turned from passive aggressive to abusive. It, however, hasn't changed (much) either. It is still waiting for us to reform. By now, we have started enjoying the power play. Of course, there are guilty days when we feel sad for letting down a friend, but most days we just manage to convince our conscience that we are way too swamped with life and work and that it will understand. Mud slinging, blame games, and finally an interlude of indifference. 

Relate much? Does the above sound familiar? Well, if so, then you are in trouble, because these are the signs of a toxic relationship. And that is precisely the road we are on with our planet, the friend we used to know...

From the soul-cleansing friendship we started in school to this toxic relationship (which can only lead to eventual disaster for both), we and the planet have come a long way. 

Cut to present day, knowingly or unknowingly, we end up doing things that are hazardous to our natural ecosystem, that are toxic to our environment, and that are eventually harmful to us. Little do we realize the magnitude of the problem until it is too late. 

However, I strongly believe it isn't over until it's over (and fortunately for us--the earth and us, it isn't too late yet). All is not lost. We can still proceed to take baby steps towards saving our relationship. (Or am I being too hopeful?)

So without further ado, lets put this relationship in perspective...
Besides, India being the host country this year, it becomes our added responsibility to lead by example and save this relationship while we are still ahead. 
So for the uninitiated, here's a little about World Environment Day 2018...

Theme of World Environment Day 2018: 'Beat Plastic Pollution.'

The role of plastic in our lives:
Today, time being our major constraint, most of us opt for more convenient, on-the-go options. These include containers and tiffins made of plastics, plastic wraps, use and throw cups, plastic cutlery, plastic bottles, plastic bags etc.
Since plastic is inexpensive, it is used widely and sometimes negligently.We all have that one friend who uses everything 'disposable' right from his coffee cup to packaged water bottles, which he later on dumps without thought or concern in the nearest waste basket or thrash can. Sometimes, we 'are' that one friend in the group. What we do not understand is that this seemingly harmless 'single use' plastic can pose a major threat to our environment. It can pollute our lands as well as our oceans. 

Why so harmful?
Plastics contain major pollutants and toxins that are capable of causing major harm to our environment; namely air, land and water. 
Also plastic decomposes very slowly owing to the strong chemical bonds it is made up of. Simple plastic products take around 80 to 100 years to disintegrate, while complex plastics can take as many as 800 to 1000 years to decompose, thus allowing ample time for accumulation and pollution in the process. This exposes humans and their environment to many hazards, including exposure to dangerous carcinogens (cancer causing chemicals).

Consequences of plastic pollution:
  • Every year, at least 13 million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans, thus destroying marine life.
    Around 100,000 marine animals (esp sea turtles) are killed by plastics every year. 
  • The plastics that end up in our oceans and other water bodies are consumed by planktons, which are in turn consumed by acquatic life and fish, which are eventually eaten by humans (thereby disrupting the food chain). In this way, we create a toxic cycle, and the poison (read 'plastic') that we dump is dumped back into us. 
  • Every year, the world uses up five trillion plastic bags. These bags when dumped eventually end up polluting land, water, and air. They can also choke and suffocate tiny helpless animals that may come in contact with them. Apart from that, plastics bags disposed off carelessly litter the area. They may float around in water bodies, degrading the quality of water and life. When burned they emit toxic fumes and chemicals, leading to human sickness, breathing problems, and illnesses. 
  • Plastic makes up ten percent of all the waste we generate, a shameful statistic that needs to be controlled. 
  • Excessive accumulation of plastic can block sewer lines, drainage pipes and other water ways, leading to hazardous consequences to health and eco-system.
  • A rough estimate of seventeen million barrels of oil are used in plastic production each year.
  • The amount of plastic bottles we buy is staggering. Research shows that we buy around one million plastic bottles every minute.
  • Polystyrene, a plastic used in food packaging, is based on styrene which is a neurotoxin and a carcinogen. 
So having said that, what can be done in order to beat plastic pollution
The Government of India has already started taking steps in this direction. 
  • India is cleaning up hundred of its historical monuments, including the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal, a symbol of love and beauty which was being degraded by careless tourists showing no reverence by littering the place, is finally going to receive the respect it deserves. Efforts to clean up the Yamuna behind the monument are also underway.
  •  Maharashtra Government has been trying to emulate France in imposing a ban on plastic, from milk packets, single-use plates, cutlery etc, and has asked consumers to pay extra, a step to reduce unnecessary employment of single-use plastics. Also waste plastic is being crushed and considered for use as raw material in the construction of roads (these can bear around 2500 kgs weight).
  • Gujrat has been conducting plastic-free drives are being conducted for devotees heading to religious places. These 'Yaatra' routes are frequently polluted by plastic bottles, bags, cups, and eatables that come in plastic packets. Last year, the Gujrat Pollution Central Board implemented cleanliness drives, in collaboration with civil society, to see that there was responsible disposal of litter by devotees.
However, no Government effort can be successful if its citizens do not participate. It is our combined responsibility to rid our country of plastics, one step at a time. Only then can we have a pollution-free world.

But how can we help at an individual level? Here's how...


  • Use of Eco-friendly cloth bags for shopping:
    These multipurpose cloth bags can be custom made or bought, and play an integral role in regulating the amount of non-recyclable and non-biodegradable plastics that we use on a daily basis. Be it for grocery shopping or shopping at the local store, one can carry these every time they leave home. Every town will have at least one man selling these bags. But we don't see them because we aren't looking. 
  • Avoid packaged drinking water and drinks: This will be useful not just in keeping our environment healthy, but in keeping us fit too. The amount of sugar and preservatives that goes in aerated drinks is much more harmful to our health, than the packaging is to the environment. So do yourself a double-favour and say no to those attractive colas in plastic cans and bottles. 
  • Make use of glass or metal or stainless-steel bottles instead of plastic ones. This will save both you and the environment.
  • Try as much as possible to avoid as much as possible, the use of plastic cups, plastic cutlery, and ask your family to do the same. Use non plastic packaging instead.
  • Last but most importantly, when you cannot refuse or reuse, learn to recycle. While shopping, try and select products that are available in non-plastic, recycled packaging. Also segregate your waste into recyclable and non-recyclable products. Recycling plastics rather than disposing them ineffectively is an effective method of controlling pollution. So if you cannot refuse, then reuse, and if you cannot reuse, recycle!
With that, I come to the end of this post, and the start of a decision; a decision to evoke my long lost love for the planet, a decision to reform and renew our relationship, and never again to take it for granted. 
This Environment Day, I promise to contribute my bit towards making the planet a cleaner, greener, and less toxic place.

Do you promise as well?


This post is published for #OpenNTalk Blogger's League hosted by Dipika Singh of Gleefulblogger
Ruchie Verma - Wigglingpen in association with SummerBarnVedantika HerbalsNyassaExplore Kids World.

#OpenNTalk is a bloggers league wherein forty selected bloggers are divided into eight teams. Each team has five members, who will blog on varied topics during the month of June. Each blogger will post a series of four posts, one post every week. 

My team for the Bloggers League is #CrossBorderSisters, and blogging with me are my four other team mates namely
1: Aditi:  BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
2: Manisha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
3. Anagha: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram
4: Bhawna: BlogFacebook Twitter Instagram

So do hop on this bandwagon, and cheer us during our journey. Your views on the posts are most welcome.
Cheers and love!


Sayeri said...

Recently one of my fellow bloggers shared a video where a Tortoise was suffering because aplastic straw went inside its nostril It was damn painful. We have to stop using plastic ASAP.
#BloggerBabes #OpeNTalk

Manisha Garg said...

Plastic is a demon I feel. Just today i was having a conversation with my house help about the same. I try to avoid plastic as much but the conversation was an eye opener. They face flooding issues due to plastic but they dont stop using it themselves. A small conversation we had I really hope it makes a difference to avoid the usage. We need to stop it personally plus spread awareness about it. #zarahatkeblogreads #OpenNTalk #CrossBorderSisters

aditi said...

#OpenNTalk #CrossBorderSisters
Slowly we've started understanding that plastic is a necessary evil. A bit difficult but we should change ourselves to minimize its use.

Bhawna Shah said...

This is an eye-opener post. We all have to save our environment and always try to opt those things which almost no or never make harm to our environment. SAy no to plastic and polythene
#CrossBorderSisters #OPenNtalk

Silja Nair said...

We will written post dear. People are aware of everything still they are not stoping the use of plastic... atleast it should reduce as much as possible. #NISSATalks

Ila Varma said...

We need to put an end to the concept use and throw n save planet from going barren. Nice informative post.

#BlogAMile #OpenNTalk

Deepa said...

Plastics are surely a threat to your mother nature. This is an exhaustive list of pointers of effects of plastics.
#bloggingdivas #openntalk

Pri said...

I think I have watched that video too. Heartbreaking indeed! :(

Pri said...

I absolutely agree. It is only through awareness and appropriate action that we can reduce the usage of plastic and improve the environment. People living in shanties especially use plastic as housing material etc because of its low cost and better affordability. Those from privileged backgrounds use it in their kitchen and on-the-go for the sake of convenience.
What we often don’t realise is the consequences of our choices. It’s time to choose a change!

Pri said...

It’s already late. We need to start right away...

Pri said...

True! The sad part, however, is our enthusiasm reaches its zenith on environment day, and then gradually starts to fade...
This time around, I plan to stick to my resolve to be environment-friendly!

Pri said...

Thanks dear. It’s true our resolves keep waxing and waning. It is a tough struggle between short-term feasibility and long-term benefits. But we got to keep trying to resist the former. If not for us, at least for the wellness of our future generations.

Pri said...

Thanks dear. We are all in this together, and we need to act now!

Pri said...

Imagine if just reading the consequences (of our actions) can get so exhaustive, how tired ‘our’ Mother Nature would be having to face the brunt of them all...sigh!

Mayura Amarkant said...

Fantastic post! Need of the hour for all of us to realise the harmful effects of plastic pollution. While can rest and place blame on the government, its important that we ourselves reduce our plastic consumption and make efforts to recycle and reuse plastic.
Thank you for writing such a pertinent post! It will be useful for the entire world. Keep writing!

Pri said...

@ Mayura
Thanks for the acknowledgement, Mayura. It is only through realisation and appropriate corrective measures that we can reverse this problem. I was happy that I encouraged a small cafe near my house to return their last packet of straws today. It’s a small step, but a positive one towards a healthier environment

Surbhi Mahobia said...

Good one, Priyanka. The tips you have shared are very practical and if somebody decides, they are not difficult to implement. For generations, people have been using reusable cloth bags for shopping. It's the recent surge in use of plastic that has made us more dependant on them. But it's easy to retract to the age-old eco-friendly solutions.